Baseball might be a game of surprises, but Lexington Christian Academy's strong showing this spring was as predictable as tulips in bloom at Churchill Downs on Derby Day.
With a roster loaded with talent and experience, LCA has already been in the winner's circle a lot this season. The Eagles sport a 13-3 record and No. 13 state ranking.
"We thought we'd be pretty good this year, but we didn't know how we'd stack up against teams in the (11th) region," LCA Coach Keith Galloway said.
The Eagles have answered that question emphatically in the last eight days.
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They mercy-ruled Paul Dunbar 13-3 Tuesday night in cold, wet, windy conditions. They swept three other city rivals — Lafayette, Tates Creek and Henry Clay — last week.
Even though the district playoffs won't be seeded, Galloway sees value in the recent victories.
"The way we look at it, if we can win in the regular season, it'll help our confidence at tournament time."
Returning almost all of its starters from last year's 23-9 team, LCA shouldn't lack for confidence with consistent pitching, a potent offense and a solid defense.
Galloway says these Eagles have more depth than his 2005 state champions.
A spring-break trip to rural Jena, Ala., a few weeks ago helped bring a close group of players even closer.
"This team has grown up together," said senior pitcher/first baseman Austin Johnson. "We rose through the ranks of JV together to play varsity, so we definitely have the leadership and maturity to get us through a successful season."
Johnson, who beat No. 6 Tates Creek last week, is part of a dependable rotation that also includes seniors Chris McCamy (who got the win over Dunbar) and Shane Crain, and junior Clay Hall.
LCA's batting order is a tough out from top to bottom, as it showed in pounding Dunbar.
Ben Hartley, Lucas Witt and Evan Stephens have been the most consistent at the plate. Before Tuesday night's game, Galloway said that "Dalton Henzman has been on fire lately."
As if on cue, Henzman blasted a grand slam against Dunbar in the second inning, and the Eagles built a 10-0 lead through three.
"We're probably hitting close to .400 as a team," Hartley said. "But our defense is probably the strongest part of our team."
The Eagles' sure-handed gloves include Hartley at second, Tyler Townsend at short and the speedy Witt in center field.
"Our pitchers throw strikes and let the defense do the rest," Hartley said.
LCA is on an eight-game winning streak, but it has a demanding schedule ahead.
In this weekend's Louisville Invitational Tournament, the Eagles will face No. 1 Apollo, No. 8 St. Xavier and No. 11 Covington Catholic.
LCA is back home on Sunday to host Bishop Brossart in the All "A" sectional before facing city foes Tates Creek, Lafayette and Lexington Catholic in succession.
"We've got our challenges," Galloway said. "But we look forward to it. That's why we condition, do weights, run sprints and practice.
"We want to see how we measure up."
Hartley says LCA can keep standing tall.
"I think we're just now hitting our peak," he said. "I think we'll keep on rising, and hopefully end it in June."
Paul Dunbar 000 21— 3 5 4
Lexington Christian 451 12—13 14 1
Trent Martin, Graham Winchester (2) and Michael Johnson. Chris McCamy, Zach Ross (5) and Steven Hoagland. W—McCamy. L—Martin. 2B—Lucas Witt (LCA), Chase Branham (LCA), Alex Wade, 2 (PD), Ryan Houghton. HR—Dalton Henzman (LCA).