It didn’t take winning this past week’s Heartland Athletic Conference Tournament, or beating Papillion-La Vista 9-5 on Monday to push its win streak seven games, to know that things have changed within the Lincoln East baseball program.
The HAC title, the winning streak and their first spot in the top 10 in a few years have been great accomplishments for the No. 8 Spartans (10-5), but the biggest evidence that the program is growing is in the little things that end up resulting in a lot of big wins.
Running out ground balls, picking up your teammates and just an overall grit have been East’s strong suit this season and it’s all come in head coach Mychal Lanik’s first season at the helm. Even if he doesn’t want the credit.
“The players are the ones doing all the work. I haven’t fielded a single ground ball or struck anybody out or picked up an RBI, it’s all them putting in the work,” Lanik said following Monday’s win.
“I tell them all the time that if I’m going to be away from my wife and my boys as much as I am, that they better play hard. You saw it tonight with Grant (Deisley) legging out a routine ground ball to short and beating it out. Those are the kind of plays that get me excited. He could’ve just jogged down the line but he beat it out and that’s the kind of play that sets the tone for our team.”
The Spartans' level of determination has been notable, and they say it comes from one source: their coach.
“Coach Lanik has really helped us out this season, I feel like we’re really coming together as a team,” said Jack Larson, who recorded the game-winning pinch-hit single in the HAC title game on Friday.
“We started out pretty rough and I didn’t think we had it in us to win this season but it’s pretty impressive what we have here. Our coach really put us all together and it’s just a completely different attitude and effort from last year.”
Their win streak currently sits at seven, one more game than they won all of last season when the Spartans went 6-18, and it really feels like a different team on the east side of town. It’s still a work in progress, though, and Larson knows there’s still work to do to get to the ultimate goal of a state tournament berth.
“It’s just about the process with us,” he said. “We’re just trying to come out and have some good rounds of BP and just compete. More good things have happened for them when we’re doing that and it’s nice to see. We’ll just keep playing as hard as we can and see how things go.”
East’s impressive record at the midway point of the season will be put to the test this week as they face No. 3 Lincoln Southwest on Wednesday before welcoming several top 10 teams later in the week for the Spartan Invitational.
“Our guys are believing and working so that’s all I can ask,” Lanik finished.