PAINESVILLE, Ohio – "Start-to-finish" is the mantra of the 2014 Storm, a team that now finds itself in first place in the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference standings. Head Coach Brian McGee and the LEC coaching staff describe the start-to-finish philosophy as "way to focus on consistency in everything we do – every practice, every inning and every game."
With Lake Erie having won a program-record 10 straight games and 13-of-its-last-14, there is, evidently, buy-in to that mantra. Upperclassmen are buying in. Freshmen are buying in. Starting pitchers and relievers alike are buying in. Position players up and down the lineup and reserves up and down the bench are buying in.
And now, so too are the pollsters.
With a 25-14 overall record Lake Erie is now a regional top-8 in two polls. The NCAA-II Coaches Poll pegs the Storm as the No. 8 team in the Midwest Region. D2BaseballNews.com has tabbed LEC as the region's No. 5 team. The rankings mark just the second time in program history that the Storm have earned a regional nod (2012).
"I think this just shows where our program is and where it is going," said McGee. "It is nice for the boys to get some recognition on a regional level for what they have been able to accomplish. To be at this ranking this late in the year, and with a chance to continue to improve as well, just shows what has gradually been building for some time."
To be fair, let's concede that voters may not buy into the all-out, drill-by-drill, play-by-play, pitch-by-pitch focus of "start-to-finish." They likely see no further than the finish part. And there's plenty there with which to concern themselves.
A week ago Lake Erie swept a three-game series from national top-10 (No. 7 Grand Valley-Mich.). The Storm have won 10 in a row and 13-of-14. The Green & White have shown the ability to win close games (9-5 in one-run games) and dominate (8-3 in games decided by five runs or more). Lake Erie has a deep batting order producing runs at nearly every slot. The pitching staff is deeper still – in the team's 13-1 run since April 5, Storm hurlers have posted an ERA of 2.29.
The Storm rank in the GLIAC's top three in several pitching categories. They also rank second in fielding percentage and second in home runs.
With all of that said, according to McGee, the team has a lot of intangibles trending the right way, too. He points to camaraderie among a highly effective coaching staff and a closeness among team members.
It's not a perfect team, and it doesn't claim to be. They don't pull rank on anyone.
But they have earned a couple.
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