Lexington Catholic began the baseball season with a new head coach, six new everyday starters and an unproven pitching staff, leading people to wonder whether the Knights could maintain their status as a state power.
Wonder no more.
Six weeks into the season, Lexington Catholic is rated sixth in the state with a 13-4-2 record, including a victory over top-ranked Apollo.
The Knights are solid on all fronts — pitching, defense and hitting — under Kevin Clary, who took over the program after three years as Rodney Martin's assistant.
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"It's been a smooth, easy transition," Clary said. "We never missed a beat."
Seniors Michael Schornick and Devon Williams have played key roles on and off the field.
Schornick, an All-City catcher, is hitting better than .500, leads the team in RBI and has been a steadying influence behind the plate.
"Michael's a leader in every sense of the word," Clary said. "He's not a 'rah-rah' guy. He just shows up every day and goes to work.
"He's been a really good mentor to the younger guys, teaching them the LC way."
The soft-spoken Schornick, who signed with Georgetown College, said he tries to set a good example, "but it's really your teammates who make you look good as a leader."
Williams, who was used mostly as a closer last year and started some at third base, is 4-0 as a starter this spring. He also plays first and serves as team catalyst.
"Devon's the fireball, the emotional leader," Clary said. "He's got a sharp tongue and keeps the guys loose."
Williams played on Lexington Catholic's 2007 state championship football team, and he brings an aggressive attitude to the diamond. But he's also sensitive to the younger players' psyches.
"Some of the young kids get a little nervous playing on a big stage, so I try to make them feel comfortable," he said.
R.J. Carroll is one of the young guys who has adjusted nicely. The sophomore pitcher has been a pleasant surprise, posting a 5-0 record.
Carroll, Williams and jun ior Patrick Maronde have given the Knights a trusty rotation. Frank Carter has provided a lift in relief and as a spot starter.
Clary expects senior Taylor Botkin and sophomore Taylor Martin to provide pitching depth as their arms continue to strengthen after they spent the winter playing basketball.
Lexington Catholic's dependable defense has been anchored by Martin at short, Carter at third, Botkin in center and returning starter Casey Messner in right.
The Knights' offense hasn't produced much power, so Clary plays small ball. Besides Schornick, the team's best hitters have included freshman Tyler Jackson, John Michael Cowley, Maronde, Williams and Botkin.
Lexington Catholic's strong showing early this spring is in contrast to last season when it had a losing record in late April. The Knights got hot at the right time, however, and won 15 of 17 games on their way to the state semifinals at Applebee's Park.
"We're way better off this year, at this point, than last year," Williams said.
"We've exceeded my expectations. Hopefully we can keep it up and make a run to Applebee's again."
Schornick sees the Knights as a work in progress.
"Coach is still in evaluation mode, still finding who our best nine guys are," he said.
"That's the main goal of the regular season. When we find who should be playing where, it'll be a confidence-builder going into the district."