By Jeff Odom
Laker/Lutz News Correspondent
The Steinbrenner baseball team may have gotten off to a shaky start this season, but its players are intent on making sure it doesn’t end that way.
The Warriors (11-6) lost three of their first four games, but under the direction of third-year coach John Crumbley things brightened quickly.
Senior pitcher Chris Williams (4-0, 1.93 ERA) said the squad quickly realized it needed to play as a team.
“It was tough at first because we weren’t really used to losing; it’s not how we’re built,” said Williams, a St. Leo University signee. “We just came together and were just like ‘Hey, maybe we’re not as good as we think we are, and we need to start playing as a team instead of a bunch of individuals.’ I think we’ve done that.”
Crumbley said his focus at the start of the season was to get his players experience, which contributed to the early struggles.
“I just think we were playing people early and trying to give people opportunities to succeed, and it just took us a little while to get to the flow of what we’re going to stick with,” Crumbley said. “I think now we’re doing the little things better, and people have settled into their roles.”
Steinbrenner lost a few of its playmakers last year including three who signed to play in college. However, a new crop of players have filled the void such as first-year varsity pitcher Cole Gordon (5-1, 0.72 ERA) and senior left fielder Sammy May, who hadn’t made a start until this season.
“It’s been fun finally getting an opportunity to play,” said May, who is hitting .346. “Every day at practice I’ve been working on my swing and hitting off the tee. I’m just staying focused and not goofing around.”
The Warriors are currently seeded No. 1 in Class 7A-District 9, scoring district wins over Freedom (12-4), Wiregrass Ranch (13-4) and Gaither (10-7). Crumbley said his team has to play consistently to stay on top.
“We’ve set ourselves up pretty well,” Crumbley said. “As far as district seeding goes, the destiny is in our court. Getting the No. 1 seed is what we’re striving toward. We’ve never had that in our existence in three years, so basically we’re looking at trying to secure that.”
Williams added playing tough district games has made the squad stronger.
“We’re facing a little bit better pitching (in the new district),” Williams said. “So in the beginning it was a little struggle, but now since we’ve gotten used to it we’re doing our jobs and that’s why we’re continuing to keep winning.”
If Steinbrenner makes it out of the district tournament, it will be the first trip to the playoffs for the third-year program. Crumbley said that’s the collective goal.
“We want to get to those postseasons and try and see how far you can go,” Crumbley said. “And as a coach that’s how you’re measured, so we’re looking for hopefully an opportunity to do that this year.”
The Warriors played a makeup game against Brandon on April 2, but results were not available by press time.
Steinbrenner hosts Freedom on April 5 at 7 p.m. Gaither hosts the 7A-9 tournament, with the championship on Thursday, April 26 at 7 p.m.
–All stats as recorded to Maxpreps.com by coaches
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