“They've really worked hard. They've been gritty the whole year. That's really one thing I think describes this team, their grit and determination."
When you lose six seniors in one offseason, you've got some ground to make up. That’s exactly the kind of situation the ACE Gryphons were dealt at the end of last season.
“They've really worked hard,” head coach Josh McLendon said, “They've been gritty the whole year. That's really one thing I think descries this team, their grit and determination.”
But one of this year's seniors for ACE Baseball has made that change look easy filling the role.
That would be senior outfielder JD Lewis.
“Been here for seven years, not going to be here next year,” Lewis said. “So It's a weird feeling but also exciting because you know you're going to a new chapter but you've just got to remain where you're at so you don't look to far ahead and stay focused on where you are.”
In his final year with the blue and green, Lewis was a machine, batting for a .311 average, with 33 RBI, 3 home runs, and 50 runs scored. On the mound, he struck out 44 batters in 24 innings.
“He just loves the game of baseball. He's out here on the weekend, he's out here at night,” McLendon said. “I've had to run him off the field before. But he loves the game, he plays the game with passion, and that's the thing I think I love most about JD.”
That extra work on the field is all done for a rather simple approach to the game.
“When I'm hitting I just try to hit the ball hard somewhere, try to stay up the middle,” Lewis said. “And when I'm fielding just make sure nothing gets past me. And don't let anybody advance when they don't need to.”
And it’s an approach that's paying off; Lewis is now set to continue his career at Spalding University, where he'll bring the same mindset to the classroom that he has on the field for the last four years.
“JD pushes himself a lot more than people realize,” McLendon said. “He's just a good student and a great baseball player. Just an all-around great kid.”
His days at ACE might now be behind him, but his playing days are far from it. And that right there is a reason to celebrate a group of Gryphons that are only getting started.
“Playing your whole life, nobody wants to stop playing baseball,” Lewis said. “You want to play as long as you can. I got that opportunity so I took it.”
Lewis helped lead ACE to the Sweet 16 in 2019, the Final Four in 2021, and the Elite 8 this year. That run included back-to-back region championships and a combined 58 wins over the last two seasons.