Power from pain: Athletics used state title game loss to stay driven in offseason

Published 8:10 pm Monday, March 25, 2024

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LYLE – The Lyle-Pacelli baseball team ended last season at the height of the sport at the high school level and they’re hoping to get there again.

The Athletics lost the Class A state title game to Fosston 3-2 in 2023, and that game is still on their minds as it served as motivation throughout the offseason. However, the team knows the road to get back to the state tournament will not be easy.

“We don’t really care a ton about last season. We’re not celebrating the past anymore. We’re going to celebrate what we’re going to win this year,” said L-P senior Dane Schara. “We’ve been working our butts off. We’ve had some captain led lifts and we’ve had a lot of participation as a team. We just want it that much more.”

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The Athletics are entering this season as the No. 1 ranked team in Class A, but head coach Brock Meyer is not letting his team celebrate anything. He’s starting this year off like any other year as the team is focusing on pitching and defense early until the swings come along later in the spring.

“We’ve put an emphasis on saying that none of that stuff really matters and it’s going to change week to week,” Meyer said of the team’s top ranking spot. “We’ve just got to do our job and focus on us. Our seniors and juniors have to lead and we’ve got to play some younger kids too. We know we’ve got a target on our back, but we’ve got to play L-P baseball.”

Last year the Athletics put together their best season in co-op history as the team went 24-2 overall before going to their first ever state tournament. L-P graduated a few key senior starters from that team, but it also brings back plenty of firepower in junior pitcher Hunter VaDeer, who has committed to Division I Creighton University, along with experienced senior pitcher Isaac Nelsen and longtime starter Landon Meyer, a junior first baseman.

VaDeer said he’s spent a lot of time thinking about the loss in the state title game and the team has used the sting of that shortcoming to fuel its offseason workouts.

“We’ve gotten a lot of guys to put in work out of season. We should be good,” VaDeer said. “We’ll definitely get everybody’s best game and we’re mentally prepared for that. We just have to show up and compete.”

VaDeer, Nelsen and Schara will all have the advantage of pitching to junior catcher Logyn Brooks, who has been a mainstay behind the plate for the past two springs. That, and the fixture of Landon Meyer at first base gives the Athletics a lot to work with before they begin to build up their younger players to fill out the roster.

“We learned from Zach (Bollingberg), Cole (Walter) and all of those guys when we were younger. Now we’re teaching the younger guys the L-P way,” Landon Meyer said. “To be honest, we were very hungry after losing that game (at state). We thought we should’ve won and we lost some good seniors from last year. Now we have another great senior class who has led us throughout the offseason. We’ve been able to make a lot of progress.”

Last season, L-P was able to master the approach of taking it one game at a time and the team is hoping that it can replicate that strategy this spring.

“It’s baseball and anyone can beat anyone,” Nelsen said. “We want to build off of last year. Last year we learned to relax and play our game. Nothing gets bigger than the state championship and we learned that we just have to play our game.”

L-P is scheduled to open its season at Mabel-Canton on April 2 and its home opener is scheduled for April 5 against Houston at 4:30 p.m. in Marcusen Park.

Brock Meyer said the Athletics are coming into the season with a fresh slate.

“Nobody was satisfied (last year) and nobody came into this year thinking that it’s definitely what’s going to happen again,” Brock Meyer said. “We’ve got to work for it and they know it. They deserved last year and they deserve to have a good year again this year.”