Off to strong start, Lafayette baseball still in search of growing leadership

Published 6:48 pm Tuesday, March 3, 2020

Lafayette’s senior class is larger in 2020 than it was a year ago, when they made their run all the way to the 5A State Championship game in their second year playing in the higher classification.

Despite the experienced team and strong start to the 2020 campaign, it’s still a group in search of a little something.

“The leadership that we had last year, hasn’t shown itself with this group, yet. The pieces are there for some guys to step up and be leaders, but right now we’re missing that,” head coach John Walker said. “If everyone knew the answers to finding leadership, it would be easier to find.”

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Maybe this senior class is bigger, but they’re losing a lot from a year ago.

Ben Harper and Zach Meagrow both hit north of .350 a year ago as seniors. Foster Westbrook as a senior in 2019 led the team with seven wins and had an ERA of 1.53. All those guys and others are gone, and the team is still looking at players to step up.

“Those guys, they did the things that you expect an older player and a leader to do. We’re searching for guys, maybe not to replace those guys but to understand their roles as a player,” Walker said. “Natural leaders are going to lead regardless, but sometimes they don’t lead in the right direction. That’s what we really have to work on, ourselves. Moving forward, I want these guys to be more conscious about how they’re leading, especially our older guys.”

It’s not all bad for the Commodores. There are some bright spots. They may not have had any single individuals to step up and fill those leadership roles, but the on-field roles are filled in a moneyball approach. For example, the team isn’t going to replace Westbrook’s seven wins, but a handful of guys may be able to amount to his production on aggregate.

Walker and the staff are excited about this group’s pitching core, something they think can carry the team if they’re going to make a second straight run at Pearl.

“I really, really like the pitching staff. That’s probably the strength of our team,” Walker said. “Some of those guys are extremely seasoned and they have a chance to be really good.”

Two of the regular starters for Lafayette – juniors Wilson Varner and Taylor Tarver – have actually been starting pitchers on the team since ninth grade. Blake Loper, another junior, went 3-0 with a 1.47 ERA a season ago in more limited action than he’ll get this upcoming season. And the best one of all in terms of arm talent is a healthy senior Hunter Coleman, who’s dealt with injuries the last few seasons.

For Lafayette to be able to make back-to-back runs to the state title, they’re going to need that pitching core to be fantastic and they’re going to need others to step in and eat innings. They’re also probably going to have to get some seniors to step into better leadership roles.