Two years ago Matt Baker and his Hanover baseball team finished the season an abysmal 1-15.
Despite the teams struggles on the field, Baker knew the Nighthawks possessed the potential to be talented in the years to come. With the majority of the team consisting of freshmen, Baker knew that they were gaining experience that would prove to be beneficial over the next few years.
After a 5-13 season in 2012, the Nighthawks showed incredible growth as a team in 2013 and finished with a 9-9 record.
"We were optimistic on the season from the very beginning," fourth-year head coach Baker said. "We had pretty high expectations and we thought we could be pretty successful. We ended up right around where we wanted to be."
Baker said he had more players than usual playing multiple sports, something he encourages, but knew that it meant less time he had to work with them on their development in the offseason.
"We just talked to the team about having some expectations that we were a year old and much more mature as individuals and ball players," Baker said. "We had expectations, and they had expectations for each other. I think a years worth of playing is what really paid off and helped us. We have been building this team since they were freshmen."
Hanover opened the season with a tough 2-1 ninth inning loss to Littlestown, but it was that loss that let the Nighthawks know how good they had the potential of being.
"Even though we lost, we played the kind of baseball we expected to play," Baker said. "I think that was kind of the tune for us the rest of the season. Even though we lost, our kids competed and that was what we wanted them to do the whole season."
The Nighthawks were led this season by infielder Zac Sheaffer who finished with a .463 average and 18 RBI as they finished in second place behind Delone Catholic in the YAIAA Division IV.
One of the bigger wins of the season for the Nighthawks came late in the season against eventual Class A District 3 champion York Catholic. Hanover scored two runs in the bottom of the seventh to earn the 4-3 win. Hanover ace Jared Peterman threw a complete game, and the Nighthawks defeated University of Kentucky signee Erich Hartman, who was the Irish's starting pitcher.
With steady progress having been made over the past three seasons, Baker is excited and optimistic about 2014.
"We will have a set of expectations next year and we will talk about where we want to be at the end of the season," Baker said. "Seven of our nine starters we will have had for four seasons on varsity. Six or seven of them will be three year starts. We hope to be better baseball players and better as a team."