So far the Oley Valley American Legion baseball team has a record of 1-2, with two tough losses to Kutztown and Schuylkill Valley.The Lynx were winning heading into the bottom of the ninth inning at Schuylkill Valley, but caught a few bad brakes, including a questionable call by the umpire in Coach Fred Van Gulik's opinion. The Lynx were unable to recover from that and lost, 8-6.

Van Gulik feels that the team is looking good so far, but he wouldn't call them a team yet. What he means by that is that they are a young team and are still learning to work together. That's something he and his coaching staff are emphasizing to the team

They have a few older kids in (Wade) Kunkel, (Tyler) Schappell and (Ian) Delancey. "I'm trying to make sure it's all for one and one for all instead of playing for themselves and thinking about themselves," said Van Gulik.

The Lynx are working on team bonding to become a team. Van Gulik tries to create a fun environment.

"The seniors have to step up and carry the team," said Van Gulik. "The juniors and sophomores need to step up a couple of notches to become this well functioning unit. There's a big talent pool in Oley and there are a lot of good players, along with good young players coming through our system. I think if we continue to do what we're doing, we're going to become a successful program.

"You need to give us some time. We lost 18 games two years ago and won five games last year. If people think I'm going to come out here and perform a miracle, it's not going to happen. Good things take time."

Van Gulik has two seniors. One of them is Wade Kunkel. "I think he's one of the best shortstops that I've seen in the league," said van Gulik. "He's a kid that can hit for power, plays outstanding defense and he's a fun kid to have around. Wade also has leader capability and if you push the right buttons, it will come out even more.

"Tyler Schappell is our center fielder and has a left-handed bat. He runs really well, but is a quiet kid. He's always thinking about how the game is played and he's a positive kid. He also knows how the game is suppose to be played.

"Ryan Kline is a left-handed pitcher. He pitched a one-hitter going into the seventh inning against Schuylkill Valley. I'd take 10 kids like him on the team. He's a hard worker and he wants to play the way the game is suppose to play.

"Sean Townsley is a six foot, six inch left-handed pitcher. He's a great kid but throws too many pitches. He does have some trouble with his control, but if he can get over that, he will be one of our most dominating pitchers this year. If he pitches in the bottom half of his zone, Sean could be a pain in the neck for a lot of teams. He's already shown improvement.

"Jeff Eddinger is our captain, along with being the catcher on the team. He takes responsibility and tries to close the bridge between the seniors and the underclassmen. Jeff is a great kid to have around. He plays the game the way it should be played. Jeff plays with heart and desire and that's what I'm looking for.

"Ryan Sosh is our future center fielder. He has tremendous speed. Ryan can bunt the ball and knows how the game is suppose to be played. Ryan can hit for power too. He's a very youthful player and he's probably one of our most talented kids that's coming through our program."

One of the biggest strengths that Van Gulik sees for his team is the depth at pitching. He has two young pitchers in Kline and Townsley who are both left-handed, along with having two more years left for the Lynx. He knows that the Lynx will have solid pitching next year as well.

The Lynx also have speed, along with having some power and has all the components to compete in the Berks County League.

"The kids and the coaches have to put it in the right order to enable us to be a successful program," said Van Gulik.

Van Gulik feels that his team could be a pleasant surprise in the Berks County League.

"We have the tools and I analyze what I have which is 18 players. Every player has a strict role within the program. There are guys that are pinch runners, guys that bunt the ball, pinch hitters or a relief pitchers. All these kids have a role. They have accepted their roles and that's the first part of being a team.

"I want them to be here and I want them to come to practice, along with having fun. We do a lot of things that create a fun environment. These kids laugh, smile and have fun. I really want us to win more than five games this year."

Phil Haddad is a free lance writer for the Times and all comments can be sent to writer-sprts@dejazzd.com

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