It took about a month into the season last year before the Thomas More Prep-Marian baseball team began to hit its stride after adjusting to a new coaching staff.
Thanks to a senior-laden group, things are off to a smoother start for the Monarchs in 2018.
TMP moved to 4-0 on the season with a doubleheader sweep of Dodge City, downing the Red Demons 11-6 and 12-6 on Thursday at TMP.
"Last year, it was about April 30th until we had four wins," TMP second-year coach Dustin Washburn said. "They were trying to figure out everything on the fly with a new coaching staff. We told them from the get-go, as things got tough in the middle of last year, if they would just buy-in, stay with the approach and stay with the system, good things would happen.
"We obviously played really well down the stretch last year and they had a great summer, and it's kind of flowed over to this year. We have high expectations with a big group of seniors."
TMP went 13-9 last year and reached the Class 3A state tournament before falling to Marion in the first round. The Monarchs have 11 seniors on its roster this season.
"I told them on the very first day of practice, if we don't have an ultimate goal, we're out here for no reason," Washburn said. "Obviously our goal is to win a state championship. We've got a picture in our dugout from the scoreboard last year in the state tournament. It shows the game we got beat.
"It's something you've got to take step by step, day by day. We can't win the state championship without playing decent baseball on the way up."
TMP fell behind 4-0 to Dodge City by the third inning of the first game but the Monarchs put up three runs in the bottom of the third. Chase Werth had a two-run double and TMP got their third run off a Dodge error.
The Monarchs then grabbed control by batting around for a 7-run fourth inning, first taking the lead after an error by the Dodge City plated two runs.
Starter Cole Zimmerman gave up four runs in three innings before Trenton Mayo tossed four innings of relief, allowing two runs. Adam Gottschalk and Brady Kreutzer each had three hits for the Monarchs.
The Monarchs opened the nightcap with a seven-run first that saw TMP put up five hits, draw three walks and take advantage of two TMP errors.
"We're always on that aggressive mindset," Kreutzer said. "We just want to get after a first-pitch fastball and do whatever we can in the early count."
"We're hunting that fastball until we get to two strikes, and they really bought into the approach," Washburn said. "We got a lot of good fastballs and we put a lot of good swings on it.
"With this group of kids, if they jump out to an early lead, they sometimes coast," Washburn added. "And that happened again tonight, so obviously we're a long way from where we need to be, but we're very happy to come out with two wins."
Gottschalk, Kreutzer, Luke Ruder and Gavin Schumacher each had two hits for TMP in the second game.
Tate Garcia earned the win, allowing five runs in five innings. He gave just one hit while TMP committed five errors.
The Monarchs put up 25 hits combined in the two games.
"I thought we swung the ball really well and had good at-bats when we needed it," Kreutzer said. "I think we need to work on our defensive game. We kind of kicked it around and made errors that we shouldn't have made."
"I thought we swung it very well," he said. "We took advantage of some mistakes from (Dodge City). They made a couple errors here or there and we capitalized offensively.
"Defensively, we got some work to do. Our starter in game two (Garcia) gave up one hit and we made five errors behind him. But like I told the guys, an ugly win is better than a good defeat. We'll take them as they come this year."