LOOGOOTEE — A year ago at this time, Loogootee was thinking the potential of playing for a state championship in Indianapolis, but Sectional 63 turned out to be unforgiving to the Lions lofty aspirations. At the start of the 2014 season, Loogootee has a new coach and expectations for its third sectional title in four years.
The Lions lost some talented players that had helped them win two straight sectional titles in Conner Wittmer and Matt Mathies, but this is still Loogootee and the cupboard isn’t bare. Under first-year coach Luke Woolems, the Lions are ready to assert themselves as one of the top programs in the area once again. The Lions opened the season Tuesday evening with a disappointing 8-7 loss to West Washington after blowing an early 4-0 lead.
“We talked Monday night about no matter what happens on Tuesday, it’s a long season and we have goals in mind that don’t have a lot to do with right now,” Woolems said. “Now is part of the process and we just have to get better every game. I’m getting to know these guys and they’re getting to know me and there are some trust issues with knowing how we’re all going to respond in certain situations. I feel like we have a talented group of kids with four talented seniors along with good senior leadership.”
Despite the good leadership that Woolems has noticed in the early part of the season, he is still finding out new things every day about his team. The Lions will count on three pitchers in large part as the team tries to find a rhythm under Woolems’ new voice, who replaced Roger Bailey after six seasons in Loogootee.
“We’re young on the mound, we don’t have a lot of varsity experience even with our seniors,” Woolems said. “These guys are hungry, they came in with a focus last night even inside in the (batting) cage — I don’t think I’ve ever seen a team come back to practice with that kind of focus. It was very evident and without a lot of poking and prodding from us. They were hungry and that’s the type of kids we’ve got — it’s great.”