The reasons for Robinson’s 6-0 start this year are obvious: consistent pitching, quality at-bats, reliable fielding, sound fundamentals — insert whatever baseball cliche suits your fancy.
But when asked what he thought was behind the Rams’ best start in years, senior pitcher Chris Lohr didn’t mention any of that. Instead, he pointed to his team’s new method of instilling chemistry up and down the lineup. With 10 seniors and 10 underclassmen on the roster this year, each Robinson senior has paired up with an underclassman with whom he throws in warmups and buddies up during drills.
“It’s making us more of a team instead of just the seniors all knowing each other from previous seasons,” said Lohr, who’s paired up with fellow pitcher Shane Hopkins. “We’re all getting to know each other and coming together as one.”
Robinson used its budding chemistry to outscore its last three opponents 28-6, but their cohesion really came in handy in a pair of nail-biters that capped off their March slate. Following a season-opening 7-2 win over Woodson, the Rams came from behind to beat a quality West Springfield outfit 4-3 in walk-off fashion, then found themselves in a 5-3 hole in the bottom of the seventh three days later against Marshall. Kaden Darrow, a senior who will play for Marymount next year, stepped up to line a 2 RBI single, and Adam Sisk, a senior bound for James Madison, raced home off a Marshall throwing error to seal the comeback.
“That’s a credit to the kids, to their resolve and their competitiveness and to the teamwork that they’ve established,” said Robinson coach John James, now in his third year at the helm. “We’ve really bonded together as a team, and we’re playing that way.”
The bulk of Robinson’s experience comes from six seniors who have been on varsity for three years: Lohr, Sisk, Darrow, infielder/outfielder Zach Beck, outfielder Tyler Fitchett and pitcher/infielder Danny Herrera. Three of the four juniors on the roster were on the team last year, adding yet more know-how to the bunch.
Experience helps in any situation, but it’s proven especially useful during an offseason marred by ceaseless winter storms.
“These are guys that have been in the program, so they know what to expect, and they know that we work hard at establishing fundamental baseball,” James said. “Having been in indoors hasn’t been ideal, but having guys that have an understanding of what we’re trying to get to has been important.”
As the weather has begun heating up, so have the Rams’ performances. Robinson’s April domination stems from an array of sources, not least of them Lohr, who struck out 12 and threw his second straight complete game in Tuesday’s 4-1 win over Herndon. The William and Mary-bound pitcher is translating senior leadership into a more relaxed approach on the mound this spring.
“I’m trying to have more fun with it this year,” Lohr said. “In previous years it was a lot of hard work earning a spot and figuring out where I stand with the team. Now that I feel like I have the tools to be a leader, I’m trying to loosen up a little bit and have fun.”
Now that conference play is in full swing, the Rams have their sights set on recapturing the Concorde District title they claimed in 2012. Friday’s tilt against defending champion Oakton could set the tone for how things play out in the coming weeks.
“It’s a tough conference from top to bottom every year, but that’s good,” James said. “We raise the bar on each other, and we know that when we play our conference games we have to be good that day. It keeps us on our toes and makes us improve.”