Expectations are high next season, for the Durham Lords men’s baseball team

The Durham Lords men’s baseball team looks to rebound from its disappointing 2015-16 campaign. Their young and inexperienced team was a huge reason for their lack success last year, said Lords’ first-baseman Dylan Harkness. Expectations are much higher for next season, with a lot of players returning. Their expectations are a gold medal.

When the Lords walked off Labatt Park in London, they had suffered their twelfth loss in the last game of the season. A record of eight and 12, was not the way head coach Sam Dempster hoped the season would go. Having won silver in both 2014-15 and 2013-14 expectations were much higher.

“We have to get better physically and mentally,” Dempster said. With more experience this year, the team will be in a much better position to win, added Harkness.

It was a young team that took the field for the Lords last year, with 16-first year students. One standout was first-year pitcher, Jake Legros, who posted a team best 1.94 earned runs average over 18-innings and took the league’s Rookie of the Year honour.

Jordan D’Amico, the Lords’ first-year second-baseman was a standout defensively, according to Harkness, who said D’Amico’s glove makes him special.

“He was really good defensively,” Harkness said. “He just kept getting better and better, making highlight reel plays.”

Dempster thought the team hit well last year. A number of players had at least a .300 batting-average. Jack Lang, the team’s catcher and a second-year player, was a strong for the Lords. He was third in the league in hits last year with 24 in 66 plate appearances, while driving in 12-runs. “He was always the go-to guy, who always has that clutch hit,” Harkness said.

Dempster doesn’t think their record reflected their performance. “We were in a lot of games last year. Our record could’ve easily been 12 and eight,” he said, adding they didn’t always get the clutch-hitting, needed to win games.

Dempster has already started the scouting process. He said everyone returning player has a chance to make next years’ team, especially with the departure of some key players, such as pitcher/outfielder, Jordan Edmonds.

Dempster made it clear winning is above everything else and if guys aren’t coming into the season in shape and ready to go, there are “options.” He added  the team still gets together every Monday for training sessions, leading up to the end of the school year.

Harkness, in particular, is making sure he comes into next season prepared. He took last summer off from baseball and focused on work. However, he regrets it.

“I feel like I didn’t play as well as I should’ve,” he said. Harkness had a .200 batting average with two home runs and eight-runs batted in. He’ll be playing senior baseball in Bowmanville throughout the summer.

The team has a very close relationship with one another.  Dempster said they are always out for dinner together while on the road and everybody looks out for each other. Harkness agrees, although it took the team some time to get to know each other.

“As the year went on we got to know each other, we became a lot closer and it was almost like a big family,” he said. The players having an established relationship going into next season will benefit them greatly, according to Harkness.

A close dugout was not there at the start of last season and was a reason for the lack of success, said Harkness, attributing the “cliques” to some guys knowing each other before the season started.

The team that poses the biggest obstacle for the Lords is St. Claire. Winners of the last three gold medals, Harkness says they are a team of well-rounded baseball players and if one player has an off game, someone is there to pick him up. The mistake the Lords made last year was thinking about them too much, leading up to playing St. Claire, according to Harkness.

“We got in our own heads a little bit,” he said. To beat them, Durham has to stick to its own game and not worry too much about them, Harkness added.

Last season is behind the Lords and all focus from now until opening day in 2016 is making sure they are prepared for a deep playoff run.