JKonrad

Pinnacle Bank juniors player Jacksen Konrad throws a pitch from the mound in the first game with Hershland on Thursday.  Konrad threw 24 strikes in 41 pitches for six total strikeouts.

Pinnacle Bank’s youngest players take two wins in Hershey

HERSHEY – Most fans know that the Lexington Legion baseball program went through a strange start this season and opted for a single team with a larger roster. Their practices and games are played more as a single unit than as two separate teams.

Unofficially, there are still two teams in the minds of the coaches and players when it comes to who plays games against different teams. While on the surface the Lexington Legion team looks to be struggling this season, the juniors team is killing it this season.

As the official head coach of the Lexington Legion baseball team, Vince Leibert pointed out; the juniors players are 6-1 against other juniors teams.

While Leibert may be heading the program as a whole, the juniors players have a power coaching staff focusing on their development.

Former Lexington Legion baseball player Jaxon Fagot may be only a first-year coach for Pinnacle Bank baseball, but he’s far from inexperienced as a leader from his time playing on the team from 2016-2019. As his back-up, Mike Zarate has spent several seasons coaching the teams that feed players into the Pinnacle Bank program. The combination of the two has brought incredible new energy to the juniors baseball team, as could be seen Thursday night in a doubleheader with Hershland.

Setting the play-by-play aside, suffice to say the juniors took two wins on Thursday evening. Both games were technical “comeback” wins, with the first being a 24-2 blowout and the second a nail-biting 9-8 victory.

The Lexington juniors trailed in the first 5 innings of the second game when they came back from a 4-8 deficit at the bottom of the sixth. They scored six runs to secure a lead and held the Hershland boys in the top of the seventh for the win. After the second game, the two coaches discussed their thoughts on why it played differently from the first.

“They saved their top pitcher for the second game,” Zarate said. “The first thing we noticed is he was throwing with some speed, compared to the first game. It took a little time for our guys to adjust.”

Coach Fagot shared his thoughts on the turnaround in the sixth inning.

“I think it was the energy in the dugout,” Coach Fagot said of the comeback. “All the guys were talking, being loud and helping each other out. There wasn’t a dull moment in the second game. The energy got the sticks going.”

Fans might notice how well the younger players are performing in the juniors exclusive games. Some of their success may come from seeing experience in seniors level games.

“Part of what’s going on is that the program isn’t split like it has been in the past,” Coach Zarate explained. “We’ve got the juniors and the seniors co-practicing and the younger players can bump up or down from the seniors games. That kind of flexibility in our season, this year, is allowing those players to get a lot of playtime in a short period of time.”

Fagot agreed with Zarate’s assessment of their time on the senior field being a benefit.

“They’re getting a lot of experience, learning the ins and outs and what to do in certain situations,” Fagot said of his players in the seniors games. “It’s making them better. It gets them clicking and knowing what’s happening in the game.”

When asked, each coach had an idea for who they would pick for their MVP of the night, but neither of them had an easy time picking one of a few good choices.

“I think Daven Naylor would be one of those for tonight,” Zarate stated for his pick. “He brings positive leadership.”

After nodding in agreement with Coach Zarate’s choice, Fagot took another moment of consideration before he gave his pick.

“I would go with Ubaldo Anaya, tonight,” Fagot said with a word of agreement from Zarate. “He strung together some great hits, barreled it up and stepped up when he needed to.”

Though each coach had a suggestion for their chosen MVP, they felt the team as a whole deserves the credit for their growth this season.

“Everyone’s grown as a baseball player, this season,” Fagot said proudly. “They all buy-in to what we want the program to look like and I think everyone’s moving in the right direction, so far.”

Lexington Pinnacle Bank baseball returns home for a doubleheader with Norfolk on Saturday, July 18 with games set to begin at 3 p.m.

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