Chris Langston, in his 18th season as Lafayette's baseball coach, learned a long time ago that pitching and defense are the bread and butter of a winning team.
So far this spring, Lafayette is feasting on that bread and butter combination.
The Generals, No. 11 in the state, are 12-2, including city victories over Henry Clay, Lexington Catholic and Tates Creek. But their most impressive outing was a 1-0 spring break win over Niceville, Fla.
Lafayette beat Niceville, one of the top teams in Florida, behind the pitching of Alex Daniel. The senior right-hander had 10 strikeouts in the complete-game shutout.
Ten days later, Daniel beat No. 2 Lexington Catholic 4-3 in a district game.
"He's learned to pitch," Langston said of Daniel, who saw limited time on the mound last season.
Daniel admitted he used to worry too much about velocity. "Now I know as long as I throw strikes, I'll be good. And I've learned how to throw all my pitches."
His repertoire includes a fastball, curveball, change-up and slider, and he occasionally comes sidearm.
Brandon Calia and Jackson Boggs have also been solid starters for Lafayette, and Sam Shelley has been an effective closer.
Daniel was quick to point out that the pitchers are buoyed by knowing their defense has them covered.
"We feel so fortunate because wherever the ball is hit — outfield, infield, anywhere — our defense is going to make the play," he said. "It's the best."
Langston is of the same opinion. He thinks this might be one of the best defensive teams he's had. "Especially up the middle with (shortstop) Ben Eckert and (second baseman) Blake Marshall," he said.
All-city catcher Johnny Fangmeyer and center fielder Eric Vanderboegh are veterans, too. Morgan Harris and Boggs flank Vanderboegh in the outfield. Lafayette is strong at the corners with Jacob Abbott at third and C.J. Compton at first.
Eckert said the Generals' defense is always on its toes because the pitchers consistently pound the strike zone.
"Confidence comes from that, so there's a lot of energy on the field at all times," he said. "It's hyped up."
Langston would like to see Lafayette's offense, which has been led by Harris, Compton and designated hitter Harrison Fields, become more consistent. But as long as the pitching and defense perform, the Generals don't need to score a bunch of runs.
While Langston confessed he's a little surprised by Lafayette's level of success, the players are not.
"We're such a close group," Daniel said. "So many of us have played together for so long and we've all been at the same positions. Everybody's worked hard to get where we are. It's just a good group to be a part of."
Marshall, who has signed with Shawnee State in Portsmouth, Ohio, won't put a limit on the Generals' potential.
"I don't think there's a ceiling," he said. "I think we can make it to where we want to go, and that's a state championship."
Eckert, whom Langston considers one of the best shortstops in the state, won't play baseball in college. Instead, he's accepted a full academic ride to Louisville and will major in engineering.
That makes Eckert even more determined to help the Generals win their first 11th Region title since 2004. This is his last go-around in baseball, "so I want to leave it all on the field," he said.