by Andrew Stark
Independence baseball coach Matt Dykema began the season searching for consistency at the plate, and he said it would only be a matter of time before the Patriots’ bats began producing.
The team’s bats have certainly come to life, as the Patriots have scored at least five runs in seven of their past eight games as as result they have improved their overall record to 9-6 and are in fourth place at 4-4 in the Southwestern 4A conference. They had allowed just nine runs during a five-game win streak that ended with a loss at the East Mecklenburg Spring Break Classic on April 3 to Asheville T.C. Roberson, last season’s 4A state champions.
The Patriots moved out of a fourth-place tie by defeating East Meck, 6-1, on April 10 behind five strong innings from sophomore ace James Hickes.
“Lately, we have been changing up our lineups some,” said pitcher Clay Tiderman. “And it has been working for us the past (eight) games as we have been hitting the ball good and getting mostly good pitching.”
The Patriots’ pitching, behind Tiderman and Hickes (5-0), has been extremely good, and the hitting has come around, making the Patriots a dangerous team.
“After the Myers Park game (a 5-4 Patriots win on March 28), we have been playing a lot better,” said junior shortstop Nick Salisbury. “We won that game, which was close, and gave ourselves a lot of confidence that we could hang in there and rally to get a win.
“We have to keep playing hard no matter what the score and keep playing the whole game, even if they score first.”
With the Patriots’ growing confidence, they feel as if they can beat any team. Senior outfielder Cody Lekavich offered a good explanation for the Patriots’ turnaround.
“We just got sick of losing and have been playing better overall and taking better approaches at the plate,” he said. “We have been coming to games with a lot more confidence, and that has been the biggest thing for us recently.”
Going into the East Meck game, which Dykema said was the biggest game of the year, the coach was pleased with the focus and execution his team has been showing lately.
“We are playing sound baseball right now,” Dykema said. “We are jumping on good pitches when we get them, we are being patient and coming up big when we need to. Everyone is also contributing, which I like to see. When someone has a down game, we have guys ready to pick them up.”