Solid group of returners leads Lansing baseball toward 2022
Lansing baseball was three weeks into its 2020 season when the COVID-19 pandemic thwarted what was an anticipated campaign following a regional runner-up finish in 2019 and a core of 15 upper-class returners.
"I still remember the day last season was canceled," head coach Michael Basler said. "It was Friday, March 13th, the weather had pushed us inside but we decided to practice… it was a great workout. Our kids worked hard, put in the work and then it all came to an end… no season."
A year later, the Lions were back on the field for the 2021 season with 11 of those aforementioned returners now in their senior seasons. The negatives of losing an entire season of competition were evident as the Lions spent the opening weeks figuring themselves out and learning how to play as a unit.
"The biggest effect it had on our team was that our juniors/sophomores missed getting to play together as a high school team," Basler said. "That time and experience really plays a role in future seasons for the players and the coaches."
He said most of his athletes were able to compete during the summer last year but losing the opportunity to compete together was a detriment all around.
"Most of our guys played some in the summer of 2020," he said, 'but missing the chance to develop as a high school team and establish a level of performance was tough. It took a good two weeks of actual games to really see how to best use our player personnel in 2021."
The Lions ended the season 10-10 and fell to Mill Valley in the regional opener. Basler said he was proud of the team despite the results and was thankful for the culture they helped instill in the program.
"I can say without hesitation this was the hardest working team I‘ve coached at Lansing in my time," he said. "It was such a pleasure to coach these guys."
Moving forward, the Lions will have a lot to build on, but they won't be starting from scratch. The program was able to get a lot of underclassmen varsity experience throughout the year and with a handful of all-league returners, there isn't a huge gap to fill.
Right-handed pitcher and first baseman Bryce Turner is coming off a solid season that saw him earn second-team United Kansas Conference honors. Basler said the senior who started on the varsity squad his entire high school career will be the team's ace and hit in the middle of the lineup. Sophomore infielder Antonio Mendez started the majority of the season for the Lions and was a second-team league selection.
The Lions will complement a solid rotation with two returning starters behind the plate as well.
Basler said a handful of seniors in Justin Jardon (3B/1B/RHP), Kylar Jaccard (OF/RHP), Dakota Schick (C) and Kaid Keller (C/INF) all got varsity playing time last year and will be in the mix to contribute in their final season.
Caden Howell (RHP/OF), Dalton Jorgensen (INF/C), James Umbarger (RHP/1B/C) are all entering their sophomore seasons and will have a chance to build on their roles with the program.
With the season still a long way away, Basler said most of his team is competing in summer leagues across the state and region. He continues to hold a morning workout program during the summer for the team to participate in and credits the 2021 class for helping stress the importance of it.
"This was something I started when I first got to LHS," he said, "and the class of 2021 really helped establish this as part of our culture and it has paid dividends for our kids and program."