Lansdowne's baseball team is struggling after three consecutive winning seasons. Much of last year's team, which went 12-7 and made a Class 2A North Region semifinal appearance, graduated.
The lack of experience has been evident in the Vikings' a 1-4 start, after losses to Patapsco, Franklin, Dulaney and Parkville.
It's probably coach Matt Kohel's least experienced team in eight years on the job. Three senior starters are back -- catcher Brandon DaGrava, left fielder Tyler Crawford and first baseman Brian Voyce.
"There were a lot of unknowns coming into the season because we only brought three guys back that played every day," Kohel said. "You have to be patient with these young guys. If they have played varsity before or consistently, it is a different animal.
"You are trying to go game to game and if you can hold it together for four innings, you get six the next game. You build on that."
The early-season struggles haven't dampened Kohel's enthusiasm.
"We play 17 games and I want a 10-win season," the coach said. "We have made it tough with our start, but we are playing every team almost twice, so we know what we have coming. I don't want to go something like 8-9. But whatever we do, we will go into the playoffs and build on that."
Lansdowne will continue to lean on DaGrava, Crawford and Voyce. Kohel likes the leadership each player is showing, especially DaGrava, who moved from the outfield to catcher.
"I saw him over the summer and I told him, 'I lost all my vocal leaders and my guys that talk.'" Kohel said. "He said, 'I got you, Coach.' He has taken the reigns and he has been a very good vocal leader. He has taken catching head-on and done a great job. Obviously, there is room for improvement."
Voyce leads by example. He's batting .471 with five RBIs after hitting .352 with four doubles and 15 RBIs last year.
"He is very good defensively," Kohel said. "I think he made one error last year. He hits the ball really hard. He is usually our cleanup guy that drives in a lot of runs."
Crawford also ranks as one of the team's best hitters with a .400 average and five RBIs. He hit a three-run home in a 9-6 loss to Franklin.
"He hits the ball harder than anyone I have ever coached," Kohel said. "When I am throwing batting practice, I am actually scared."
The starting lineup also includes senior center fielder David Miller, senior shortstop Shane Chaffman, junior third baseman Mike Trietley, sophomore second baseman Cornelius Monroe, senior outfielder Zack Richards and junior right fielder Joe D'Urso.
The Vikings' lone victory came against host Kenwood on April 1. DaGrava (3-for-4, RBI), Voyce (2-for-5, RBI) and D'Urso (1-for-4, 3 RBI) led Lansdowne to an 11-4 win.
Lansdowne is at home against Loch Raven on Thursday and travels to Oakland Mills on April 16.
"Every single game, we are coming closer to playing a complete seven innings and minimizing the errors," Kohel said. "There's been progress from each individual. It's just a matter of getting there quicker."Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun