Considering the rich history of the Lakeridge baseball program, Allan Coyle was somewhat surprised when he was recently named the school's new head baseball coach.

'To be honest, I was kind of shocked I was able to get the job,' Coyle said after the decision was made official last week.

It will be Coyle's first head coaching job in high school. However, he does have eight years of experience as an assistant at the high school level and four more years at the junior college level.

But Coyle came highly recommended after he served the last two years as the Lakeridge assistant under recently departed Jason Phillips.

'I had a lot of support in the community,' Coyle offered.

One of those who was solidly in Coyle's corner was Lakeridge athletic director Mike Coulson.

'We're excited about Allan. I think he will be a very good fit,' Coulson said.

One of the determining factors in Coyle's favor was his ability to get the most out of this summer's American Legion team, which finished with one of the top records in its league.

When asked what his main selling points were, Coyle responded: 'My rapport with the kids and my ability to get them to respond.'

Indeed, the players seem to be responding as well to Coyle as they have with any coach in a while.

Of course, there's no guarantee that a change in coaching will get Lakeridge back to the glory years, like the school had under Royce McDaniel in 1970s and Dave Gasser in the 1990s. Now, athletes have more sports options, especially in the spring.

'We definitely have to build up our numbers in the youth program, and then get (those kids) playing baseball in high school,' Coyle said.

'We've had a few guys cross over to lacrosse,' Coyle noted. 'But it would be tough to turn down a chance to play for a championship.'

Certainly, Coyle has the right attitude for keeping kids interested in his sport.

'If I can help people love baseball the way I do, maybe they'll stick around for a while,' the coach said.

Coyle actually inherited a strong nucleus of players from Phillips, but a rash of injuries and other problems kept the Pacers from making a serious run at the playoffs during the spring.

'The biggest thing is the team needed to get healthy,' Coyle said.

After getting healthy early in this summer, the Lakeridge legion team went on to claim fourth place in the recently completed league tournament.

It was an impressive first stint as a head coach, but Coyle knows even more improvement is needed to get the team to the level where it was under McDaniel and Gasser. McDaniel won a state championship in 1974 and Gasser won titles in 1999 and 2001. Coyle already feels the pressure to try to keep pace.

'There's always pressure when you come into a program that's used to winning,' Coyle said. 'I'd definitely like to stick around for a long time.'

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