“The Mercyhurst baseball team is back in the post-season. The Lakers have spent three years in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference, making the playoffs all three years. Following an excellent 35-10, the Lakers earned their second top seed in three years.
The Lakers were runners-up in 2009, likely valuable experience for the team headed into this post-season. To end the regular season, the Lakers won 14 of 15 to enter the PSAC tournament on a torrid hot streak.
The experience, coupled with the confidence from the last few weeks, could lead to a PSAC championship and an NCAA tournament berth.
“To end the season like we did is definitely a confidence builder, especially since usually the best team in the playoffs is the hottest at the end of the year,” Thurman Schaetzle said.
Schaetzle was a sophomore on the 2009 team.
One wrench in the title run for the Lakers is that they didn’t know who exactly stood in their way until 6 p.m. Monday. The PSAC tournament begins Wednesday.
“We don’t know who we are playing, but we have a good idea of what’s coming,” Schaetzle said.
East Stroudsburg is the East’s fourth seed, but they are not a typical low seed. East Stroudsburg went 25-16 on the season.
“It doesn’t feel like there is a true four-seed. Any of these teams could just as easily be the No. 1 seed; no one just squeaked in,” Coach Joe Spano said.
The PSAC tournament is double-elimination, allowing room for one misstep. The Lakers plan to avoid a letdown after such a successful end to the year. The coaching staff added one game to the end of the schedule to avoid an 11-day gap between games.
“It was nice to get out of practice-mode and get everyone ready,” senior Adam Brentlinger said.
Since the team only has two days to prepare, Brentlinger, the starting catcher, is under more pressure then usual behind the plate. However, the coaches call the pitches and help lower the burden on the catcher.
“I feel like I know the pitchers’ routines by now, and we just want to keep it simple. My main job is to keep the pitchers calm,” Brentlinger said.
Simple seems to be a common theme between the players and coaches. Since the preparation time is limited, the goal is to keep the game plan simple and stick to the fundamentals.
The Lakers have had their fair share of tests throughout the year, but they still manage to remain upbeat. The team balances a light-hearted atmosphere with a more serious side.
“We have guys who have been there before and can help the younger guys with the pressure and just set the tone,” Schaetzle added.
The Lakers will play East Stroudsburg in the first round of the PSAC tournament on Wednesday at 12:30 p.m. in Jamestown, N.Y.
If the Lakers win the PSAC, they could have the opportunity to host an NCAA tournament game.