Doing all the little things right has produced big results for Bedford over the first month of thebaseball season.
Under 13th-year coach Craig Trychel, the senior-dominated Kicking Mules have opened with 16 straight victories, including a 4-0 start in the Southeastern Conference.
That start has shattered the school s previous record for consecutive wins, which stood at nine. Wins No. 15 and 16 came Monday in a 4-1, 13-0 SEC doubleheader sweep of visiting Ann Arbor Huron. Bedford has outscored its opposition 158-31, an average of about 10-2 per game. The Mules have recorded six shutouts. Their next tests come Saturday at the Bishop Foley Invitational in Madison Heights, Mich.
We ve only got 12 guys and everybody contributes, Trychel said. They ve really worked hard since day one, and we ve done all the little things very well. We ve fielded the ball, pitchers have thrown strikes, and we ve gotten the hits when we needed them with runners on base.
Being able to do those things makes a big difference in a ball game, and when you do that you re going to be successful.
The Mules hope this earlymomentum carries into their quest for an SEC championship and a strong Division 1 tournament run.
Driving the Mules has been the senior foursome of Nate Davis, Mitch Hooven, Talon Buck and Shayne Shroyer, who occupy the second through fifth spots in the batting order, respectively.
Center fielder and No. 2 hitter Davis, also the quarterback for the football team, has ripped enemy pitching for a .500 (30-for-60) batting average, with 3 home runs, 26 RBIs and 23 runs scored.
We just came out ready to play this year, Davis said. Since seventh grade a lot of us have played together, so we ve got some chemistry. We want to go to the [state championship] and win it. We re capable of doing it. We ve got the players, and we ve got the pitchers.
Hooven, the ace of the pitching staff, has bounced back from a shoulder injury that limited his mound work in 2008 after a seven-win sophomore season. The crafty left-hander pushed his season record to 7-0 with the 4-1 win Monday over Huron. Through 30 innings this season, he has allowed just 12 hits and two runs while striking out 58 batters and posting an 0.47 ERA.
We worked hard over the winter and got off to a great start, Hooven said. We put a lot of time in the cage and, when we came out to play our first game, we picked up right where we wanted to. Ever since then we ve never really looked back.
It s not like anyone is singled out. Everybody s a team player and I think that s what helps us the most. A couple of our early wins came against teams that have beaten us in previous years. That gave us some confidence, and we know if we continue to play hard and don t make mistakes we feel we can keep on winning.
Hooven has also been sharp at the plate, hitting .418 (23 for 55) while driving in 19 runs and scoring 17.
Buck, the clean-up hitter, splits his defensive time between catcher and first base. He is batting .380 (19 for 50) with 18 RBIs and 18 runs.
The more games we win the better we feel about playing, Buck said. It s a great feeling. We want to get to the state championship game and everybody on the team is working hard to do that. But the biggest goal first is just making it past districts.
Shroyer, Bedford s regular shortstop and No. 5 hitter, is also the No. 2 starting pitcher. He is hitting .480 (24 for 50) with one homer, 14 RBIs and 14 runs, and is 3-0 on the mound with 12 hits and six runs (three earned) allowed in 20 innings. He has fanned 28 batters and has posted a 1.05 ERA.
We ve just been hitting in key situations and our pitching s been awesome, Shroyer said. A lot of us played travel ball together, and most of us have been together for six or seven years now. That helps. It s a good accomplishment to break the old [winning streak] record and hopefully we can break some more records.
A fifth senior, Drew Jurgenson (3B-OF) is hitting .448 (13 for 29) with 6 RBIs and 11 runs. Providing a spark at the top of the lineup has been sophomore leadoff hitter Jared Kujawa (C-3B), who is hitting .404 (23 for 57) with two homers, 22 RBI and 20 runs.
Trychel, who is 248-163-3 in his 12-plus seasons, likes the confidence the fast start has created in his team. But he is quick to caution that the most important portion of the season is just beginning.
We told them after we won our 10th game that all those other games mean nothing when the league [season] comes around, Trychel said. That s kind of how we re looking at it. Each game in the league means a lot.
You can t go overboard on it. Obviously it s a great start, but as things come together toward the end of the year, that s when we ll find out where we re at. That s when we ll find out how good the team really is. You want to be playing your best at the end of the year, and I m hoping we re able to do that.
Rounding out the Mules regular roster are seniors Drew Hendrick (OF), Eric Ondrus (2B) and Kayl Talboo (P-2B-SS), juniors Dave Digby (OF) and Bobby Schoch (P-1B), and sophomore Dan Przeniczny (P-3B-SS), who is hitting .353 (12 for 34).
Sophomore Trent Szkutnik, a regular on thejunior varsity, pitches in the starting varsity rotation. He is 3-0 with 26 strikeouts and a 1.31 ERA in 16 innings.
To date, Bedford s best baseball season record-wise came when the Mules went 26-8 and won the first of back-to-back Great Lakes League titles back in 1998, Trychel s second season as head coach. The 1976 Bedford grad served as junior varsity coach at his alma mater from 1993-96, and had previously been a Mules assistant (1980-81). Trychel, 50, also spent seven seasons (2001-07) as Bedford s head football coach.
Bedford is already within four wins of givingTrychel his fifth 20-win season. His Mules were 22-6 in 1999, 24-14 in 2004, 26-11 in 2006 and 20-17 last year. They won the SEC title with a 9-5 conference mark in 2007, but the best tournament runs during Trychel s tenure were regional-final advancements in 2002 and 2003.
The eight seniors sense the potential for a special season, and hope to make the most of it.
For me, this could be my last shot at anything in baseball, Hooven said. It s my senior year and maybe it s the last time I ll play at a competitive level. You never want to go out knowing that you could have done better. I think all 12 guys we have come out every day and play as hard as we can and leave nothing out there.
Contact Steve Junga at:firstname.lastname@example.org 419724-6461.