It wasn’t the season he expected.
But it was still a fantastic year.
Mike Lentz was a senior outfielder on the Archbishop Ryan High School baseball team, and he expected this one to be a good year for the Raiders.
He knew it would be tough. The Raiders were a young team and had a new coach in Eric Brooks, so he figured after things came together, Ryan would go on a winning streak.
The problem is that win never came. It didn’t help that the Raiders had a short schedule, like just about every team, because of early April weather, and it also didn’t help that the Catholic League was as tough as ever.
Ryan finished without a win, but that doesn’t mean it was a bad year.
“I had high hopes, we came into the winter ready to work, and we did work hard, I thought we would make some noise,” said Lentz, a centerfielder who grew up playing for Liberty Bell. “We were very young, we had a lot of first-year varsity guys, and baseball is a sport where you need to play to get better. I think we only had three guys back from last year.
“We got better. One thing I really admire about the team is that every day, everyone showed up and fought. It was a tough season, a lot of people could have checked out, but we fought until the end. As a competitor, I couldn’t ask for anything else.”
And as a competitor, Lentz is happy with what he saw from the squad.
Tough for him because he won’t be back next year to lead the team, but he sees a lot of potential stars in the Raiders lineup.
“I kept thinking we were going to win a game and then we would get momentum and start winning a lot of games,” Lentz said. “But we did get better. We got a lot better. There are guys on this team who are going to be really good. I think they’re going to be really good because they’re putting in the work.”
The younger guys couldn’t have had a better role model than their senior leader.
Lentz was whatever the Raiders needed him to be. He is a natural outfielder, which made him very comfortable when he was starting in center field. But when the situation called for it, he was happy to go to the mound. And in the Raiders’ final game of the season, he found himself at the hot corner because the team needed someone to step in at third base.
Wherever he was needed, he was happy to go. But what made his season that much more special was the numbers he put up. We’re talking crazy stats.
In the Catholic League, he hit .500. For the season, he hit .541. He had 20 hits, had an on-base percentage of .630, a slugging percentage of .568 and played flawlessly in the field wherever he was positioned.
Even Lentz, who came into the season with plenty of confidence, couldn’t have expected the numbers he posted this year. But he was certainly happy to see all of the hard work he put in pay off.
“I had to pick up the guys, take them under my wing,” Lentz said. “Make sure to keep them in check, do what I could to help the team. Make the team win. We played two nonleague games. We had some really good games, but we couldn’t get over the hump. Close in a lot of games. A couple that we had but we didn’t win. We had a tough schedule in the beginning, I really hoped we’d get hot and keep rolling.
“This was my best year by far. I was always a so-so hitter, I wasn’t top of the league, middle of the pack. I was an average hitter. I think I just last year I played varsity, I was very hesitant, I had bad anxiety, what was going to happen if I strike out? This year, I let myself loose and just found it.
“The game slowed down, I was so much more comfortable in the box. In the field, I was comfortable. The game slowed down, I played at my pace and I worked at my pace. In the field, I didn’t rush. It’s so important. Baseball is your game, you have to take it into your hands. It was so important.”
For his efforts, Lentz was named Second-Team All-Catholic, which is a great accomplishment considering he probably lost some votes because of his team’s record.
“I’m really proud, and me and my parents have talked, it’s tough going out like this, winless, but I created a great bond with my teammates, my coaches,” Lentz said. “I couldn’t have asked for a better year. I never say this but I’m really proud of the year I had.”
His career year gave him confidence, and he hopes that carries into next year. Lentz is bound for the University of Delaware, and while it’s a tough team to crack, he’s going to give it everything he has.
“I picked Delaware because of the academics,” said Lentz, an A-student in the classroom. “I’m going to be a business major, minor in engineering, so it was the best fit, school wise. I’m going to work hard over the summer, and try to get a spot on the baseball team.”
He’ll be in Delaware, but he’ll always be checking in on his Raiders.
“I think they’re going to be really good next year,” Lentz said. “I loved playing with this team. The guys and the coaches. They were all great.
“I have to say Coach (George) Karusky was such a great inspiration to me, he brought a different life. He inspired me to do better. All of the coaches were great. This was a fun season and they’re going to be good.”