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Ephrata baseball team focuses on more than wins and losses

EPHRATA, Pa. - Work hard, play hard, dream big.

Those are the three core values for the Ephrata baseball program.

And big dreams often lead to big results for the Lancaster County team, which has won two district titles in the last three years.

Success for the Mounts starts on the mound.  Most teams are lucky to have one or two quality starters.  Ephrata has four.

Coach Adrian Shelley has been leading his alma mater for 21 years.  And he admits having that kind of pitching arsenal is a luxury.

"We're quite fortunate," said Shelley.  "They are all very competitive, so each one kind of tries to one-up the other one and push them."

The rotation includes two juniors and two seniors.  And both seniors are Division I prospects.  Left-hander Nate Young is still undecided about his college future, while right-hander Adam Schwartz will be playing for the University of Connecticut next year.

"It's very easy to succeed in a program where we're coached the way we are and we're able to spend the amount of time together getting better," Schwartz said.

The Mounts pride themselves on being "uncommon," from their work ethic to their character.

"We believe that the character of the player will lead to the right kind of results, not the other way around," explained Shelley.

To reinforce that philosophy, coach Shelley has a unique position on his staff.  Most baseball teams have assistants like pitching coaches and hitting coaches.  Ephrata also has a character and mindset coach.

According to Schwartz, character coach Mike Muhr helps the team in many different ways.

"Coach Muhr tries to keep us focused on our goals, no matter what they might be," said Schwartz.  "Early in the season he was trying to get us prepared for the long season ahead.  Now it's more about the games and trying to get us ready to compete."

As part of their character-building program, the players are encouraged to participate in three different initiatives: Global development, community development and personal development.

For example, players can adopt one of the local youth teams, by showing up at practices and games to either help instruct or just to offer support.

"We don't specialize in baseball, we try to be well-rounded," said Shelley.

Such a heavy emphasis on character is definitely not a traditional approach in high school sports, but the Ephrata players have bought into the concept and have seen it produce results.

"There have been a number of games where our team collectively has been able to stay calm and focused, when other teams have fallen apart," Schwartz said.

Coach Shelley couldn't agree more.

"We're big believers in an actual process of focusing on the task at hand, rather than getting caught up with results," said Shelley.  "And we hope that for the seniors that graduate from our program, the experience transcends the wins and losses."

Heading into the PIAA Class 5A tournament, Ephrata is riding an 18-game win streak.  The recently crowned District 3 champs will face Mars in the first round of states on Monday at Red Lion High School at 4:30 pm.