The Lutheran High North Lions baseball team enters the season with a handful of upperclassmen for the first time in Andy Moore’s three-year tenure as head coach.
“This year, we’ll have three seniors and three or four juniors,” he said. “This is the oldest team we’ve had since I’ve been here, which is a really positive thing.”
It is beneficial because when Moore inherited the team in 2015, all but two Lions were freshmen and sophomores, and are now those same juniors and seniors, so the success of this season hinges on the experience, leadership and familiarity that they bring to the club. And through two games already this year, the skills that the older players have acquired has paid off immensely for LHN.
The Lions were able to put up 31 runs combined against Providence Classical School and Scarborough High School in those two games, while also shutting out both teams.
While Moore is counting on all of his upperclassmen to help guide the team, he said it is especially important for seniors Andrew Santillan and Jacob Elizondo to take on leadership roles, although he has been pleased with what he has seen so far.
“They really showed that (against Scarborough) during the game,” Moore said. “With plays happening on the field, they were being good quarterbacks by letting everybody know where their plays are.”
Moore said that his coaching style and philosophy have remained mostly unchanged during his time at LHN, but having several older players has allowed him to step back a bit and let them mentor the younger ones, which has added value to the team.
“I would say that if there is anything that I am doing differently, it is to be a little more patient and let the guys police themselves as opposed to having to be the motivator,” he said. “It helps a lot because with accountability as coaches, we only go so far.”
Although Moore will rely heavily on his juniors and seniors, he said that he is excited about the incoming crop of freshmen and expects them to contribute right away.
Freshman Travis Malkowski, who played under Moore at the Oaks Dads’ Club when he was four years old, will be one of the five starting pitchers on the team.
He will also fill in at first base when he’s not on the mound.
“He’s a fantastic baseball player,” Moore said. “In fact, he threw three shutout innings against Providence.”
The other newcomers to the team are Brandon Ruiz, Brandon Willey, Cooper Benedict and Seth Eifert, who is the younger brother of junior standout pitcher and third baseman Erich Eifert. The brothers Eifert are set to join the Lions full time this week following their playoff stint with the boys’ soccer team.
Moore and his team saw a minor jump in the standings from his first season to the second, but with a bevy of experience and talent, the Lions expect to make a leap.
“This year is going to be a very solid year for us because of our age,” Moore said.
“Maturity is going to be a huge difference.”