Jeremy Lakes would prefer it if he and his Madison Central teammates could go about their baseball business this season without anybody paying them much notice.
"Personally, I'd like to come in under the radar," he said. "It'd be nice if we could just go out, get the job done, and nobody saying anything about us."
Sorry, Jeremy, but that ain't happenin'.
After a runner-up finish in the 11th Region last year with a team loaded with sophomores and juniors, Madison Central was expected to be a state power this season.
The Indians were No. 8 in the coaches' preseason poll, and after winning 11 of their first 12 games they rose to No. 4 in the rankings.
"We love this group," Coach Steve Roof said. "They're competitive, they work hard and they have fun.
"They are a true team. They care for each other and they push each other, on and off the field."
Madison Central has what it takes to contend for its first region title since 1993.
The pitching staff, which posted a 1.50 earned run average last year, returns all of its starters: Lakes, Joe Holbrook, Kyle Kelsey, Zach Voll, Trey Sexton and Alex Georgel.
Lakes, who plays shortstop when he's not on the mound, threw a five-hitter in beating Lexington Catholic in last year's region quarterfinals.
Kelsey beat Scott County in the semifinals.
The Indians used five pitchers in a 2-1 loss to Tates Creek in the finals.
"Our philosophy is to really attack the strike zone," Roof said. "If we do that, play good defense and have quality at-bats, we have a good shot."
Madison Central's defense should be solid. It has experience, speed and savvy.
The outfield is anchored by three-year starter Ben Morin in center, along with Seth Richardson, Griffin Hotchkiss, Austin Alexander and Josh Wright (who's also a designated hitter).
Nick Kavanaugh is a three-year starter at third. Lakes has good range at short, and works well with Hunter Kabalen at second. Holbrook plays first when he's not pitching. Cory Mullins returns at catcher.
Roof doesn't get into polls or statistics, but instead stresses effort and attitude.
Madison Central's players have adopted their coach's approach.
"We play against the game, not the opponent," Morin said. "We don't worry about that other stuff, like the rankings.
"We do like setting high expectations for ourselves, and we know we have to work hard to get there."
Kavanaugh said the Indians "aren't worried about our record. We're just worried about getting better each game we play."
Kavanaugh thinks the team's greatest strength is that "a lot of us have been playing together since we were 5 years old."
Lakes said that bond is even stronger now.
"Last year we had some kinks in the chain, but this year we're doing everything we can to get everybody together. All of us go bowling. We go watch movies. We go out to eat. We just hang out.
"We know that if we come together like a family we can accomplish anything we want."