Another regular season is complete for the Mustangs baseball team and they have yet again clinched first place in the Ontario University Athletics conference ahead of the playoffs.
They managed to do it with a dramatic doubleheader sweep over the Guelph Gryphons at Dan Pulham Field.
Paul Lytwynec did the heavy lifting for the Mustangs with a three inning, seven strikeout save in the 3-1 victory in game one. As an encore, he hit a walk-off single in the seventh inning to hand Western a 5-4 victory in game two.
“I was just trying to throw strikes and get ahead of the count to win the game. I feel like I had my stuff today,” Lytwynec said.
“He’s definitely our MVP,” pitcher Bryn McDonnell added.
Now with home field advantage clinched in the playoffs, the Mustangs are getting ready to defend their title and make it five banners in six years.
Not bad for a program that was hovering around .500 seven years ago.
If you ask the players who deserves the credit for the team’s success, they all point to head coach Mike Lumley.
“He has proven that he can take Western baseball, who was an average team, and lead them to four titles in five years. He knows what he’s doing,” McDonnell said. “We all respect him and he has a lot of credibility, making the 40-man roster of the Detroit Tigers at one point.”
It seems like everyone in the league realizes the importance of Lumley’s contribution considering the man has won four OUA coach of the year awards.
“The coaching is set up perfectly,” Lytwynec said. “He’s always instilling the same thing, just drilling good practices and being confident in everything you do.”
And this is a confident team. The group seems to believe they’re better top to bottom than every other team in the league.
“We understand that we are putting the best product out on the field and [Lumley] makes sure to keep everyone motivated,” McDonnell said. “We have so much depth and […] when guys get the chance, they go out there and show what they can do.”
That’s a credit to Lumley to keep everyone motivated and playing for each other. That camaraderie has been a key point he has stressed during his time at Western.
“Bottom line is being a team. Everyone has their job to do and contributes, whether they are on the bench or on the field,” Lumley said. “We don’t step out and say ‘this guy is our guy’ and the guys like it that way.”
Lumley has also based his success on playing small ball to compliment their fantastic pitching and solid defence. This is clearly the hallmark of this year’s team who is fifth in the eight team league in runs scored, yet first in runs allowed.
“It’s crucial especially in a fall season. With the weather like this, nobody is going to be hitting home runs, so you have to be able to play small ball and pitch well,” Lytwynec said.
“Good pitching beats good hitting any day of the week, so we base our team around good pitching and defence,” Lumley added. “We capitalize when we need to get the wins, but the pitching does the job.”
If the Mustangs hope to defend the title, they are going to need to continue their solid pitching and defence throughout the playoffs.
“It’s a simple game sometimes but executing it is easier said than done,” Lumley said.
The Mustangs will host the 7–7 Waterloo Warriors, a team they have swept this season, on Friday at 7 p.m. If they are victorious, they will take on the winner of the Brock Badgers and Toronto Varsity Blues. The OUA final goes down on Saturday afternoon at Labatt Park.