The season didn't start the way Bel Air baseball coach John Swanson hoped. But maybe it will end more to his liking.
By the time the Bobcats could catch their collective breath this season they were a 3-8 team.
But what Swanson has discovered is that he has capable leaders in senior captains Zack Stout and Tyler Riedal and junior Tyler Norcross. They showed their character by leading their teammates through the building process.
Now, Bel Air is 9-11 heading into the Class 3A postseason, which begins this weekend (MPSSAA brackets are expected to be unveiled Wednesday). The Bobcats are 4-2 in their last six games, and those two losses have come against two of the area's top teams: No. 4 North Harford, 1-0, and No. 14 Harford Tech, 9-7.
They've beaten No. 8 Patterson Mill, 7-6, in a game that may show just how far the the team has come. Early in the season, Bel Air lost to the Huskies, 13-3.
"We are doing the little things we haven't been doing before," Swanson said. "As I have said to my players, 'No, we have not played up to our potential. ... We have not exactly put ourselves in situations to win, either. But that's baseball.
"Even after 15 years as a head coach and 34 years of total baseball, I am continuing to learn ... and I look at this season, so far, as another opportunity to evaluate our players and program and focus on where we need to get better."
He said he is "most proud" of the team's leadership, developing maturity and communication skills, "which are attributes you want with any young developing team."
To inspire his team, Swanson has created a T-shirt with the saying "QPA HITMEN" on the back. It stands for Quality Plate Appearance and a player can earn one by doing three positive things at the plate -- three hits in any combination, three walks or a 12-pitch at bat.
"The point or message is: have an approach, have a plan, visualize it, see it and do it," Swanson said. "I know it sounds easy, but the execution is what we constantly stress. So if it's a shirt that drives it home, so be it. It's working."
Norcross is currently swinging the hottest bat at .467, while several others are closing in on .300.
"As a group, we need to buckle up and trust and ride the wave," Swanson said. "Time will tell."