Before the season began, the Red Lion baseball team was nowhere near part of the conversation for being one of the best baseball teams in the York-Adams League.
All the talk centered on the usual top teams in the area — West York, Spring Grove, Dallastown, Susquehannock and Northeastern. And to those program's credit, they deserved it. The Bulldogs were the reigning Y-A League champion and the Rockets were the only team to qualify for states, as well as District 3-AAAA runner-ups. Meanwhile, the Bobcats, Warriors and Wildcats were all bringing back significant parts of last year's teams, making them easy picks to compete for division and league bragging rights.
Well, no one cared to pay any attention to the Lions and what they had to offer this year. Senior Wyatt Tyson might just be one of the best pitchers and overall players in the league, while the lineup and pitching staff is littered with talent.
"We knew that we had a lot of talent and could get a lot of wins," Tyson said. "We didn't know how far we could go, but we knew we could put together a good season."
In Red Lion's opening game of the season, it showed off its offense with a 10-run outburst against Hershey. In three games this year, the Lions scored 25 runs, good for 8.33 per game and more than one per inning. Meanwhile, the pitching staff has only allowed 14, giving the team a plus-11 run differential through its first three games.
Then, when you consider that in the Lions first true test of the season last Tuesday against Northeastern, they doubled-up the Bobcats and their impressive arsenal of arms, hanging eight runs on them, while keeping the bats, for the most part, in check. If there was anything remotely close to a statement game early in the year, that certainly would've qualified as one.
"It was a really good win," Tyson said. "It was one of the colder days, but we stuck it out and we won as a team. We're hitting the ball really well right now, so that's a really good sign. ...We didn't think (our hitting) would be as good as it is right now, but we're hitting well in practice and it's carrying over into the games."
In recent years, Red Lion has been good, but nothing special. It hasn't made the District 3-AAAA tournament since 2012 and has never won a division or league title. And even the year when the Lions qualified for the district tournament, that's when it was still a 20-team format, meaning that eight teams had to go through play-in games, which Red Lion did, but lost.
There's still a ton of games left to be played in the year, especially for Red Lion, which has played the fewest number of games of any Y-A League team so far this year. But, unlike the other 21 teams, the Lions are the only team not to have lost, sitting at 3-0 with a tough home game against Cumberland Valley on Monday. By the time that game is played, it will have been a full week between games for Red Lion, certainly a nice break to rest arms, but the players know in the back of their minds that the slate will get very condensed very soon.
But, if nothing else, the Lions also know that, at least for now, they've started opening eyes and put themselves firmly in the conversation of teams to beat the rest of the way.
"We know we have to keep working hard and can't lose focus," Tyson said. "We didn't prove anything yet. We have a lot to prove and just three wins isn't enough, so we have to keep plugging along and working hard."
— Reach Patrick Strohecker at firstname.lastname@example.org