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Unlikely or not, Eagles became believers

Unlikely or not, Eagles became believers
Unlikely or not, Eagles became believers
Along the third-base line, Lanesville players face the flag for the national anthem at the program's first baseball state finals appearance. Photo by Brian Smith

Going back to the store for my unprecedented fourth bag of sunflower seeds during the bat-and-ball postseason, the reality that Lanesville reached the state final in baseball soaked in.
Each postseason, I see how many bags of seeds I can go through (apologies to grounds crews of host schools). With softball and baseball sectionals often completed in the same week (thanks Indiana High School Athletic Association), some years it’s only a bag or two.
This year, however, the Eagles helped me set a personal record. I’m not sure I believed it could happen, and I don’t think the Eagles initially did either.
As many coaches do come mid-May during a damp and wet spring, Lanesville skipper Zach Payne pushed to add late games. The Eagles took on New Albany and Providence, Payne’s alma mater and this year’s 2A state champ. That final regular season game was an 18-0 score versus the Pioneers. Lanesville wasn’t on the winning end. Odds of the Eagles reaching the state finals probably plummeted with a bookie if there was one around.
Shifting to sectional, playing at home can certainly be an advantage. A yard the Eagles recently renovated includes a beautiful brick backstop, refurbished dugouts and more.
During the opening game, Lanesville limped to the finish, putting away a pesky Christian Academy of Indiana team late. Then, the momentum and confidence hit. When the Eagles broke through and scored against a stout Borden team, eventually riding it to a 4-1 win, the dugout energy changed.
Everyone was on the fence. As typical with the better baseball teams, players were loud in the dugout, reverberating confidence through words of trust for one another.
Senior Lucas Timberlake, a relief pitcher, said he continued each week coming up with randomness in the dugout to keep teammates loose. Some of the crunch times, Timberlake was on edge along with most of the Lanesville followers.
‘Biting your nails for three weeks straight is pretty hard to do,’ Timberlake said. ‘We came back in the sectional. We came to regional knowing we would win after we won sectional. I didn’t see that confidence most of the regular season. It was refreshing to see, and I see them carrying it over to next year.’
The sectional win led to three more postseason wins, all by one run. One was a come-from-behind effort in the regional final vs. Northeast Dubois. Seventeen innings of mental toughness were needed to sweep the one-day regional weekend.
As was the theme versus Borden, Northeast Dubois and later Clay City in the semi-state, bunting and speed made the Eagles even more unstoppable.
Playing as a team in baseball can have some challenges. After all, when at the plate, it’s batter versus pitcher. But the Eagles figured out how to work as one: Bunt a teammate over to sacrifice an out. Take third base on a throw and the next guy will bring you home. Get a groundball and the defense will get the out. Catch a runner leaning off base and throw him out.
The baseball product wasn’t anything fancy ‘ no dill pickle or cracked pepper options needed ‘ just put the ball in play and make things happen. Ever-improving pitching and defense held opponents in check as well.
During a community celebration Monday evening, several players were open and honest, speaking about how much they bonded during the postseason run. ‘Brothers,’ several voiced.
Cheers to the Lanesville baseball program. I remember the joy and excitement across generations when the 2010 squad broke a 35-year drought by winning a sectional on the home turf. I’m not sure when the lights on the field went out that night.
Not only did Lanesville represent the town and county in terms of baseball history, the Victory Field appearance set a precedent in Southern Indiana. Prior to Lanesville and Providence reaching the state finals in the same year, three teams within the Patoka Lake Athletic, Hoosier Hills (Seymour, 1988, champion; Jeffersonville, 1998 runner-up; Madison, 1999, 3A champion), Mid-Southern and Southern Athletic conferences have reached the state finals.
It was uncharted territory.
Unlikely or not, the Swinging Eagles made history. Although one game short of the big prize, there is a good chance they’ll make a run next season.
In the meantime, I’ll allow my sodium intake to lower for a bit.

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