When the Xaverian Brothers baseball team got off to a 1-3 start, coach Gerry Lambert did not fret. He did not get anxious and yell up a storm. He did not drastically alter his lineup or rotation.
After all, Lambert and the Hawks had been here before — just a year ago, in fact. In 2012, a five-game losing streak left Xaverian 5-7 at the beginning of May, but then the team caught fire and won 13 of its last 14 en route to a Division 1 state championship.
The Hawks know a slow start does not equal a state title, of course, but they realize there is plenty of time to make up lost ground. They understand the season is far from over.
“One of the dangers about starting a season on the wrong end of things is a team has a tendency a little bit to get tight. It manifests itself in games sometimes,” Lambert said, adding that his team did a good job of keeping themselves from “grinding the bat into sawdust.”
“But I think we’re loose, I think we’re reasonably confident,” he said. “I think when you play baseball loose, you have a better opportunity to maximize your potential.”
Indeed, after an ugly 13-3 loss to Wellesley and 7-4 defeat at the hands of Catholic Conference foe Malden Catholic, the Hawks bounced back. Consecutive wins over Lincoln-Sudbury (6-2) and Norwood (7-4) last week — before a 8-4 loss to Newton North dampened things — could represent a turned corner as Xaverian (3-4) continues to grow as part of Lambert’s grand plan.
The 12-year head coach has long been of the school of thought that his teams are best served by playing a brutally difficult regular-season schedule, and the 2013 campaign is no different. Aside from its Catholic Conference games, the Hawks also play the likes of Peabody, Newton North, Lincoln-Sudbury, and Norwood (twice).
Lambert’s goal? Ten wins, just enough for the Hawks to sneak into the state tournament with a .500 record. Last year, Xaverian was 12-8 by tourney time, and in 2010 it entered the state tournament at 10-10 before making a run to the D1 title game.
Austin DeCarr , a senior captain and righthanded pitcher, was a freshman in 2010 and returned from injury late last season to help the team to the title. He is familiar with a typical season.
“Xaverian baseball always seems to get off to a little bit of a slow start and then they catch fire end of April to May and June,” DeCarr said. “It’s never an undefeated season for Xaverian, especially with the schedule we go up against.
“We’ve got a good team chemistry going this year. We got off to a slow start, which was tough, but me and [senior captain] Alex [Person] just made sure nobody got down or anything. We won our last two so hopefully we’ll go on a run soon.”
DeCarr and Person, Foxborough residents who have known each other since middle school, hold that influence not only as leaders but also as impact players on the field. Lambert dubbed them “co-number-ones” though DeCarr has put up slightly better numbers (2.50 ERA and 16 strikeouts in 14 innings) than Person (3.60 ERA and 21 strikeouts in 13⅔ innings).
They are also two of the top hitters in the lineup, with DeCarr usually hitting second and Person third.
DeCarr, 6-foot-3 and a strong 215 pounds, in particular has been hot at the plate with his .467 average and .636 on-base percentage. With five extra-base hits — including three triples to Xaverian’s expansive right field — his slugging percentage is “off the charts,” according to Lambert.
“I’ve just been trying to stay relaxed and not do too much, just use right field,” DeCarr said. “We have some guys that have been getting on, but I haven’t been trying to jack the ball out because that’s never going to work. You have to stay relaxed and stay within yourself.”
Person, meanwhile, has a homer to his name even though his timing has been a little off — his bad speed is a little too fast, Lambert said. Still, there are plenty of others chipping in on an offense averaging almost five runs per game.
Lambert called junior Andrew Elliot , who is splitting catching duties with Ricky Smith , a “pure power guy.” His uppercut swing is not exactly ideal, but no one is complaining with his production out of the cleanup spot.
“He’s been swinging the bat really well. He has a nice, smooth lefthanded swing,” DeCarr said. “He’s a very solid catcher. Him and Ricky Smith have both been doing a good job back there.”
With DeCarr and Person putting up their usual numbers, junior Paul Regan emerging as a viable third option on the mound, and seniors Aidan Desrosiers and Aaron Drummey working their way back from various ailments, Lambert said he likes the way his team looks. The schedule has no gift wins, he likes to point out, and if his team has a tough game like it did against Wellesley, it knows how to put it in the past. Continued...