NEW PALESTINE — Shawn Lyons cannot take credit for building the New Palestine baseball program. But he can take praise for keeping it afloat.
With a winning culture already in place, Lyons said his job has been easy. And he’s made it look simple, too.
Since taking over the program (2011) for Al Cooper, who was the head coach for 10 seasons before being named Dragons’ athletics director, Lyons has instilled his own type of winning tradition.
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After claiming a regional championship in 2014, Lyons and New Palestine went on to win a sectional title the next season in 2015.
And this season, the Class 3A No. 7 Dragons (19-10) rocketed out of the gates, winning eight straight contests. Dropping its first game of the season to Roncalli on April 20, New Palestine went on to win the Hoosier Heritage Conference (10-4) crown before falling short in a loaded sectional.
The Daily Reporter caught up with Lyons, who is just the fourth baseball coach in school history after joining the program as a junior varsity coach in 1997, to talk about being named Hancock County Baseball Coach of the Year for the second year in a row.
With this being your second year in a row winning the award, what was the biggest difference between this year and last for your team?
We achieved some of our goals but not all of them. We put great weight on winning our conference; every year we do. The teams have great coaching staffs and great personnel. Last year, we didn’t, but we won a sectional. However, this year we were in arguably the toughest sectional in the state. It hurt, but it didn’t diminish any success we had this year.
Can you talk about your kids and winning the right way? How have you kept the program in the right shape over the last few years?
I can’t take credit for building it, but I can take credit, along with my coaching staff, for trying to keep it where it was when coach (Marvin) Shepler and Al Cooper were there. I really have a loyal coaching staff. They would do anything and everything for the kids. We have a culture here that was ingrained awhile back. We just try to maintain it. Some of the coaches have been with me for 19 years and some have played for me. As a head coach, you take too much blame for losses and too many accolades for the wins.
You mentioned this award meaning a lot to you, can you explain why?
Coach Chad Coughenour has been at Eastern Hancock a while and moved them in the right direction. They had a very good year. Coach (Ryan) Carr at Mt. Vernon and Robbie Miller at Greenfield-Central, those guys, I have a lot of respect for them and what they do. Being named county coach of the year is something I do not take for granted. I consider it a great honor because of who those other coaches are.
Can you talk about the senior class (10 players) and what they leave the underclassmen with?
There four-year record was 84-38. They leave with two sectional titles, a regional title and an HHC title. Their legacy, I always tell them, is that they will be gone but not forgotten. We are known all over the state of Indiana as a good baseball program, and they did their job keeping it that way.
Going off this season, what can your team improve on heading into the offseason?
I think the first thing is I would like to be healthy throughout the whole year. With Jacob Smith out, we had to start a 14-year-old freshman at catcher in Colby Jenkins. He did an amazing job. We probably need to be a little more consistent with our hitting approach. We are going to have to figure out a little of our outfield. Also, some situations on our pitching mound. All in all, we will accept that challenge because I have a lot of trust in my staff.