The Lakewood High School baseball team has a new look this season, with several transfers joining the team. However, when the Gators begin Region VI-4A play today, they will be going up against a team that is a perennial power year in and year …
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The Lakewood High School baseball team has a new look this season, with several transfers joining the team. However, when the Gators begin Region VI-4A play today, they will be going up against a team that is a perennial power year in and year out.
LHS will travel to Kelleytown today for a 6:30 p.m. contest. The Red Foxes, ranked fifth among 4A schools in the South Carolina Baseball Coaches Association preseason poll, will come to Sumter on Friday.
"They're always good," Lakewood head coach Bill DeLavan said of HHS. "They've won the region the last couple of years. They lost a lot of experienced players from last year, so this team is younger, but I think it might be more talented.
"Plus, we've got to go to Kelleytown to begin with. That's always a tough place to win."
The Gators are off to a 4-2 start with seven transfers joining the team. DeLavan said bringing the newcomers together with the returnees has been a work in progress since the beginning of the school year.
"That's probably been our biggest challenge to get the cohesion together," said DeLavan, who guided LHS to an 11-11 season last year in which it made the state playoffs. "We've done a lot of team building, doing things off the field beyond baseball.
"The returning players we have have been really good with the transfers," he added. "When it comes down to it, the kids want to win."
Lakewood won its first four games before falling to 5A Stratford 4-3 and 4A Brookland-Cayce 4-2 last week.
The leader of the pitching staff is right-hander Lathan Todd. Todd, who transferred from Sumter High for his senior season and has signed to play collegiately with The Citadel, will start today.
"Lathan is the bell cow," DeLavan said. "When he's on the mound we have a chance to win, no matter who we play."
Left-handers Chandler Hunter, a transfer from Thomas Sumter Academy, and returnee David Frey, who missed all of last season with a broken collarbone, are vying for Friday's start against Hartsville.
Returnees Dalton Browder and Tommy Pillsbury along with Laurence Manning Academy transfers Trent Frye and Bobby Crisp, all rigthys, give the Gators deopth.
SHS transfer Cory Blackley has been handling most of the catching duties with holdover Ross Connor spelling him on occasion.
DeLavan is using 3-man rotations on the infield. Holdover Hunter Day, Frye and Pillsbury are sharing time at first base and third base. Browder, Todd and TSA transfer Chris Parrish are sharing time up the middle with Browder seeing most of the time are shortstop.
Sumter transfer Tucker Chapman is starting in center field with Hunter seeing most of the time in left and Crisp most of the time in right. Frey and returnee Javonte Jones will see some action as well.
Chapman is batting leadoff with Hunter behind him and Todd in the 3 hole. Frye is batting cleanup followed by Blackley, Crisp, Browder and Parrish. Day, Pillsbury and Jones are sharing time in the 9 hole as the designated hitter.
"We've got a tough region," DeLavan said. "Along with Hartsville, there's Lugoff-Elgin (ranked sixth in preseason) and Darlington. We split with them last year."
The Gators are ranked ninth by Diamond Prospects, a web site dedicated to high school baseball in the state.
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