Our top-five teams three weeks into the season,, along with honorable mentions. (Teddy Feinberg/GameTimePA.com)
Good pitching is often a one-way ticket to a winning record on the baseball diamond. Look no further than the 2017 Red Lion Lions.
Head coach Kevin Lawrence said his club has about eight pitchers he can turn to in any given situation. That depth has allowed the Lions to get off to an 8-1 start entering Wednesday's game against New Oxford.
“It’s like that app — we’ve got an arm for that,” Lawrence quipped. “Doesn’t mean we’re going to succeed every night. But we’ve got an arm for whatever the need is.”
Three of those arms in particular have stood out in the early portion of 2017.
There’s Tyler Stabley, a junior left-hander who uses a variety of pitches, speeds, and arm angles to keep opposing hitters off balance; there's Cameron Czerwinski, a sophomore who’s made a habit of coming into games during crunch time and getting out of tight spots with runners in scoring position; and there's Tyler Burchett, a hard-throwing 6-foot-5 junior right-hander who’s committed to the University of Kentucky.
All three are different in style, and can present various challenges to the opposition.
Read more:YAIAA baseball power rankings
“You have someone like Burchett, who can come in and throw (hard),” Stabley said. “Then you have someone like me or CJ who can come in and work their offspeed. Mentally, that really works on another team because you have so many different styles of pitching that they’re facing.”
Stabley said he tries to use his smarts on the mound, while mixing and locating his pitches effectively. He also said he’s played with catcher Cam Gipe for some time, and that the battery mates have good chemistry.
Lawrence added that Stabley is somewhat of a hybrid between Burchett and Czerwinski, and that the junior brings a “steely demeanor” to the mound. Not surprisingly, the Lions have turned to Stabley in big games this year — he's gotten the starting nod and pitched deep into games against YAIAA Division I rivals Central York and Dallastown this season.
Similarly, Czerwinski has also been rock-solid in his approach to the hill in 2017, albeit under different circumstances.
The sophomore has come out of the bullpen to wiggle out of jams throughout the season. Lawrence said Czerewinski has entered five games this year with the bases loaded, and each time he's escaped with little to no damage inflicted. On the season, Czerwinski has three saves to his stat line.
“(Czerwinski) coming in with the bases loaded all the time, getting those big outs. Tough situations," Burchett said. "He just goes off us and I know he has our back. I can leave the game with confidence.”
He also comes from baseball blood lines. He's the son of Roger Czerwinski, the former West York baseball coach and current athletic director at Manheim Township, who led the Bulldogs to state baseball titles in 2012 and 2013.
Czerwinski said his go-to pitch has been a nasty breaking ball, which he refers to as his “spike curve.”
“If I got a strike on him, I’m probably going to that,” Czerwinski said.
As for Burchett, he said by the end of the high school season he’ll be hitting up to 90 mph on the radar gun. He added that, when fully stretched out in the heat of the summer, he can reach 92 mph on his fastball.
At 6-foot-5, and just a junior, Burchett is a power arm with a ton of potential.
“He’s a physical specimen,” Lawrence said. “When he stands on the mound….He certainly looks the part. I don’t think there’s any coach in the league who, given the opportunity to have him, wouldn’t take him.”
Red Lion has gotten off to a quality start under Lawrence, a fiery coach who's in his second year with the program. His excitement for the game is easy to pick up — during game day, his voice can be heard in the parking lot as he looks to get his team ready for competition.
“Nothing great was ever accomplished without enthusiasm,” the head coach said following a recent practice. “No employer wants an employee who shows up and isn’t excited to be there. No coach wants a player who shows up and isn’t excited to be there. And there were times last year where we struggled with our energy level. It ebbed and flowed too much, and we couldn’t play 42 outs.”
The team hopes the good vibes keep flowing this year, even as the schedule ratchets up. Having depth in arms never hurts in that effort, however.
"They're loaded for bear," said Central York head coach Mike Valencik.
"When you have that trifecta going, that three-headed monster, boy, it's tough."