Reservoir's Lee Lawler never set out to be the Player of the Year. All he wanted to do this season was to help his team continue the success that it had in 2011.
But when you're following in the footsteps of a Player of the Year who led his team to its most successful season in school history — 2011 senior T.J. Pipik — the expectations are there regardless of whether the comparisons fit or not.
"We had that discussion, 'You're not T.J. and I don't want you to be T.J. You're Lee,' " coach Adam Leader said. "He's not the guy who's going to be hitting the ball over the fence, he's going to get on base and run the bases smart, and that's what he did."
And by being the best Lee Lawler that he could be on the baseball field, the senior did one thing that he planned to do — leading the Gators to another very successful season — and one thing he never planned to do, earning Howard County Player of the Year accolades.
Last year, Pipik was 9-0 with a .39 ERA and 71 strikeouts and five walks on the mound, while batting .472 with 18 extra base hits and 35 RBIs.
Lawler, meanwhile, was 5-0 with a .70 ERA, 41 strikeouts and seven walks.
And although he wasn't nearly as explosive at the plate as Pipik, Lawler found his own way to contribute on offense.
Batting in the No. 2 slot, Lawler maximized his opportunities, scoring 18 runs on 18 hits and collecting 15 stolen bases in 55 at bats (.327 avg).
His approach was "just to get on base as much as I could, draw walks, get hit by pitches, hit singles, whatever, just get on and run," he said.
But while he provided a spark at the top of the lineup, it was Lawler's improvement on the mound, along with the arrival of an excellent freshman arm, that made Reservoir the dominant team in Howard County this year.
Lawler and rookie Cody Morris combined to pitch almost 100 innings, winning 13 games, striking out 136 batters and allowing just 10 earned runs for a sub-1 ERA.
"Last year (Lawler) coming in and getting a full season behind T.J., he was smart enough to listen to him, watch him and learn from him," Leader said. "On the flip side, he ended up mentoring Cody just as much (this season) and hopefully that cycle will continue."
By pitching even better than he did last year (7-0, 72 K, 16 BB, .46 ERA), and doing whatever he could do on offense to help manufacture runs, Lawler was a key cog in the Gators' second straight county and District V championship. He also represented Howard County in the annual Brooks Robinson High School All Star game at Camden Yards.
Leader remembers Lawler coming to summer camps at the Fulton high school since he was seven years old, and hanging out around the baseball field chasing foul balls when his older brother played for the team back when the school first opened.
Although Lawler made a name for himself last year when he pitched two scoreless innings of relief in the first District V title game win, he turned even more heads this season.
In a win over previously undefeated Glenelg in mid-April, Lawler struck out 13 in a complete game two-hit shutout. His fastball was clocked as high as 89 miles per hour that day, and according to Leader, four college scouts on hand were all ready to ink the senior as soon as the game concluded. (Lawler signed with Towson in May).
"His curveball is a fast curveball," Leader said. "It bites hard, it's nasty. It's a good pitch."
Leader said that to succeed at the next level, Lawler will likely need to add an effective change-up to his repertoire of pitches, and put on a little more muscle.
But one thing that Lawler won't have to work to improve is his teamwork. That's always been a strong point, and it was a lesson that he learned from a good role model.
"Our whole team had an equal role. T.J. didn't do everything last year, if someone didn't make one play we wouldn't have won ... we did (it together as a team)," he said. "It was just a blast, it was a fun team ... everyone loves it, we just have a good time."