Lexington Catholic's baseball tradition over the past 15 years includes six region titles, three state championships, and hardly any warm and felicitous feelings from the competition.
"No one really likes us," senior third baseman Ben Wilhite said. "And I like that. I like we're the ones people are after. I like being chased."
Midway through the 2015 regular season, the chase is on. The Knights are rated tops in the 11th Region and No. 3 in the state.
Lexington Catholic Coach Taylor Brooks, who was a standout pitcher for the Knights just 10 years ago, is glad his players don't shy away from trying to live up to the program's high standards.
"They embrace the tradition and the legacy a lot of people have left here," Brooks said. "Not a whole lot of people like Lexington Catholic, and that's not going to change. So why not accept it as a challenge?"
Brooks, who guided the Knights to the 2011 state tournament, is confident he has the makings of another region contender.
Lexington Catholic is talented and experienced. Wilhite and fellow seniors Daniel Little (shortstop), Anthony Ethington (pitcher) and Connor O'Neil (left fielder) provide plenty of leadership.
Little, who has signed with Louisville, is a slick fielder and a terrific contact hitter. He prefers to bat lead-off.
"I like getting it started," he said. "If you get on, it gets the energy going, and everyone's pumped up, ready to play."
Ethington, a lanky 6-foot-4 righthander who signed with Wabash Valley Junior College in Illinois, is the ace. "When he's on the mound, the team is excited and loves playing behind him," Brooks said.
The rest of the staff was a question mark when the season began, but no longer. The Knights are giving up fewer than three runs a game. Seniors Gatewood Robbins, Will Sherman and Jack Carroll have pitched well. Sophomores Steven Bender, Sam Armstrong and Trip Lockhart have had their moments, too. Lockhart, for example, threw six scoreless innings in a 1-0 loss to Highlands.
"Our younger guys have responded well, and our older guys are using their veteran savvy to keep us in games," Brooks said.
The Knights' defense returns several sure hands, including Wilhite, Little, O'Neil and the Thompson brothers — Chris at second base and Andy in center field.
C.J. Bush, who played some at third last year, is at first. Josh Flowers, a transfer from Florida, splits time in right field with Bender.
Landon Moberly and Tyler Grigalis handle the catching.
Little likes Lexington Catholic's make-up.
"We're obviously a good hitting team, and a fast team," he said. "We've got experience on defense. And our pitching staff is looking good now. With all that, if we come out focused and with energy, we can do some damage."
Brooks loves his team's versatility.
"We're dynamic," he said. "We can swing the bats and play for a big inning, or we can small-ball you, move runners over and try to get them in. You don't want to be one-dimensional, and we're not."
The Knights got a confidence boost the first week of the season when they knocked off defending state champ St. Xavier 2-1.
"That win showed us how good we could be," O'Neil said. "We didn't hit that good, but we played defense, got good pitching, and used our speed to scratch out a couple runs to beat the No. 1 team."
Not that Lexington Catholic ever really doubts itself. The Knights have one goal in mind every season.
"The tradition here really influences us, and we want to fulfill the legacies other players have left for us," Wilhite said. "That means we want to compete for a state championship. That's the expectation. That adds to the pressure, and that's why nobody likes us.
"But that's what makes it fun, too."