There have been losses and lineup changes.
There have been far more downs than ups this season for the Cherokee baseball team.
Through it all, the Chiefs have been able to count on one thing: the positive approach of senior catcher Tim Haverstick.
“He’s just a rock-solid leader,” Cherokee coach Marc Petragnani said. “As strong a leader as I’ve had in this program.”
Junior infielder Jake Prince, who powered Cherokee to Thursday’s 14-2 victory over Clearview in the second round of the South Jersey Group 4 tournament, said Haverstick’s can-do pep carried the Chiefs through a difficult regular season.
“He never has a bad day,” said Prince, who was 4-for-4 with five RBIs against the Pioneers. “He’s always talking to everybody, always picking guys up.”
These days, everybody in orange seems to share Haverstick’s enthusiasm.
After entering the playoffs with a 6-12 record as the No. 15 seed, Cherokee has beaten No. 2 seed Jackson Memorial, the reigning sectional champion, and red-hot Clearview to reach the semifinals.
Cherokee will meet third-seeded Eastern, an Olympic Conference American Division rival, on Tuesday for the right to advance to the South Jersey title game next Friday.
Eastern beat Cherokee twice during the regular season, by scores of 8-3 and 3-1.
“I think we just reset everything,” Haverstick said. “We didn’t carry the bad finish we had to the end of the [regular] season into the playoffs. We just came in with a new attitude.
“Everyone has been positive and together and we’re bringing great energy and it’s translating on the field.”
Haverstick, an East Stroudsburg (Pa.) recruit, has done more than talk a good game. He was 1-for-3, reached base three times and drove in two runs in the 5-2 win over Jackson Memorial.
He was 3-for-4 with a walk, double and two RBIs in the victory over Clearview, which entered the game on an eight-game winning streak. Haverstick said hitting has been contagious for the Chiefs.
“One person hits, there’s more energy and the next person comes up and gets another big hit,” Haverstick said after the Chiefs rapped 15 hits, including four for extra bases, in the win over Clearview.
Petragnani said Haverstick’s greatest on-field contribution has been behind the plate.
“He absolutely is the king of our pitching staff,” the coach said.
Junior right-hander Andy Walters, who allowed two runs on five hits in 5 1/3 innings vs. Clearview, said Haverstick takes command of the game, easing the load on the pitcher.
“He’s the best leader we have,” Walters said. “He knows everything that is going on.”
Haverstick said the Chiefs’ regular-season struggles never sapped his spirit.
“Just keep playing,” Haverstick said. “Every day is a new day. Don’t let the last day take over.”
The Chiefs look like a different team in the playoffs. But their senior leader hasn’t changed.
He’s approaching the sectional semifinals with the same mentality he brought to every game and every practice.
“Just go out there and leave it all on the field every game,” Haverstick said. “Leave no regrets.”