Adam Lovell didn’t take it for granted that he could make the Central Catholic varsity team as a freshman.
When he fulfilled that goal, the outfielder also knew his hard work had just begun.
“It was a mixture of success and relief,” Lovell said. “It was a very happy day and made me want to work hard so I could keep that spot for the whole year.”
During Central Catholic’s four-year reign as Class A state champions, the Knights mixed veteran leadership with talented youth. Austin Munn (2009) and Evan Kennedy (2011) both started in the state championship game as freshmen.
Yet the youth movement is larger than normal this season, with second baseman Jackson Anthrop and third baseman/designated hitter Luke Fusiek joining Lovell as freshmen in the Knights’ starting lineup.
“We didn’t know they were going to be in the starting lineup, but we knew they’d be in the mix,” CC coach Tim Bordenet said. “They came out and played really well right from the get-go.
“When they got their opportunity, they never gave us a reason to take them out of the lineup. Their play kept them in the lineup. The first time you see our team, you wouldn’t guess they were freshmen.”
Anthrop follows in the footsteps of three brothers who played for the Knights: Jade, Dru and Danny. While Bordenet said he could play anywhere, Anthrop established himself as a solid second baseman with a .955 fielding percentage.
He’s also displayed offensive versatility, batting at the top or middle of the lineup while compiling a .361 average and 12 stolen bases. Lovell said one of his teammate’s standout traits is his work ethic.
“I knew there were some spots that were going to be open; some seniors that had graduated,” Anthrop said. “But I knew it wasn’t just going to be given to me. You’ve got to work for it and do things to get there.”
Lovell bats second, where his bunting skills and speed play well behind senior leadoff man Jake Churchill. Despite his relative inexperience, Lovell has more walks (10) than strikeouts (seven), helping fuel a .443 on-base percentage.
In left field, Lovell has benefited from the tutelage of senior center fielder Cowan Olinger.
“The kid has so much energy he just can’t even control it,” Olinger said while the Knights cleaned up after Tuesday’s practice. “You saw him on the leaf blower. It’s the perfect job for him, because he’s always messing around with that; he’s messing around with everyone. On the field, he’s as competitive as can be. He wants to get the job done, and he has been all year.”
Fusiek emerged as a regular in early May, partially because regular third baseman Andrew Hubertz began to pitch more. Bordenet said his solid hands and good range fit well at third.
Fusiek has also played second, short, left and right this season. He also proved his worth at the plate and takes a .314 average into Saturday’s semistate competition.
“When he’s up there, he’s always fighting each and every pitch while he’s in the box,” Olinger said. “At the bottom of the lineup, he’s got to roll it around for the top, and he’s been doing that.”
The three freshmen are in the lineup for what they can do for Central Catholic today, but gaining experience in the present can also pay off in the future.
“They’re doing more than hold their own right now, and it’s exciting to think what happens four or five years down the road as they are more physically mature,” Bordenet said. “I think the ceiling’s pretty high for all those freshmen.”