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First year coach leads ‘positive’ patriots

March 11, 2014

Spend a little time with Patrick Henry Community College’s first-year baseball coach, Lucas Jones, and you’ll quickly realize he’s a big believer in the benefits of a team-first mentality.

So far, it certainly seems to be working.

Jones, who served as a full-time assistant coach at Division I George Mason University before coming to PHCC in June, has PHCC off to a 12-3 start, including a 7-1 mark in Region X play.

“Our effort and enthusiasm each day is a big key toward our chance to win, and that has nothing to do with our skill set. That’s just a big part of how we’re gonna play,” said Jones. “We ask them to focus on something bigger than themselves, something bigger than an individual’s success, and this team has started to come together to understand that.”

After losing its first two games of the spring, each by one run, the Patriots have fought their way to wins in 12 out of their last 13. The lone loss in that stretch was a 9-0 drubbing at the hands of defending Region X champ Brunswick – a team that advanced to the World Series last year.

Despite that shutout loss on the front end of a doubleheader, PHCC responded with a win in the nightcap, 7-2. Then, the very next day, they took the three-game road series by handing Brunswick another 7-2 defeat.

Jones credits his team’s willingness to buy into a culture of positive thinking, focus and preparation for the results thus far.

“There’s nothing that can be accomplished with a mindset of ‘Everything’s going wrong’ and ‘Here we go again,’” he explained. “Your attitude has to translate into something that will be beneficial, to help you improve or help you adjust for that next pitch, next at bat, next inning, next game or next season. It’s just something that’s a core belief of mine.”

Though his team is averaging more than 6 runs per game, Jones also gives a lot of credit to his club’s pitching and defense.

Tyler Belcher (2-0) is the team’s No. 1 starter. The Patrick County High School grad leads PHCC in innings pitched (24 2/3), while also sporting a 2.19 ERA and an average of 4.38 strikeouts per game.

Four other hurlers have started so far this spring, and nine others have thrown at least three innings.

Alex Brown is the closer that Patriot teammates “rely heavily on for those important outs,” Jones said. Over 9 2/3 innings, Brown has collected three saves and nine strikeouts while maintaining a 0.00 ERA.

At the plate, sophomores Ed Lazano and Justin Kime pace the team in at bats. Lazano, a shortstop who’s committed to UNC-Pembroke, is hitting .286 and leads the team in doubles, with seven. Kime, who plays third base, is batting .327 and leads the team in hits (18) and RBIs (13).

Jones also highlighted the play of Will Hylton and Ryan Dickt, who share time at catcher.

“We’ve got a solid team across the board, but there’s not one guy who’s really the highlight guy for us,” said Jones. “We’ve got good balance across the lineup and guys who are buying into the team-first concept.

“To me, that’s the recipe for something that could be very good and very successful,” he added. “They just have to continue to buy into that and mimic that daily, and if they do, I think we’ll have some pretty good outcomes.”

The Patriots will travel to play N.C. Wesleyan and Southeastern CC on the road before their next home game, which is set for March 20 against Anne Arundel at Hooker Field.

For more information about PHCC athletics, including full rosters and schedules, visit www.phccsports.com

Filed under: Baseball

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