Over the next few months, you'll start to notice some changes to the baseball complex at Lakeland Christian.

The 59-year old private school, the largest in Polk County, will break ground on new facilities, complete with a renovated locker room, updated batting cages, an improved press box and new concession stands.

But, that's not where the most noticeable changes can be seen this year.

The Vikings, at 8-3, are off to one of their best starts in school history, showing the changes on the field are happening way before a single shovel hits the dirt.

"Part of it all starts with us playing good defense and throwing strikes," head coach Blane Fox, who is in his seventh year with the program, said. "We, potentially, have the athletes to also give us some solid at bats. When it all starts to come together with good pitching, it just makes life a lot easier."

Sure, you can look at their schedule and point out two of their three losses came to the best teams in the area, Tampa Prep and Winter Haven. The thing is, this team has never been at full strength yet this season.

"As the weeks build, our schedule starts to strengthen," Fox said. "We ran into Winter Haven last week without...our top three guys, so it was a little rough. We knew if we were at full strength we could play with those guys and basically anybody in Polk County, as far as I'm concerned."


The team also had the flu flying around, which kept some guys out of the lineup. But that hasn't been the only thing contagious to start the year.

Logan Browning, a Florida commit, has four home runs this year.

Rafael Bournigal, son of Rafael Sr., who played seven years in Major League Baseball, has three.

Ben Adress, has two.

Grant McKown, has one.

You get the picture.

"We have a short porch in right field," Browning said of the power surge. "Everyone likes to jack the ball out during BP."

And it's not just the big-name guys. Brooks Wilson, who transferred back to Lakeland Christian after playing for Lakeland last year, had the game-winning hit in a 3-1 win over George Jenkins on Monday. Marcus Stump is getting on base so often he has a team-leading 14 runs.

Browning and McKown have also dominated on the rubber, combining for three wins in 20 innings of work with identical 0.70 ERAs.

"There's a lot of confidence coming out of preseason, and we've been swinging the bat real well," Fox said. "When you average close to 10 runs a game, it starts to become contagious. With some decent pitching behind it, we are going to be on the good side of that more often than not."


That flu bug might have still been lingering from last year's loss to Tampa Prep in the regional semifinals, something that still haunts Fox and Browning. It's been a recurring theme, Lakeland Christian has never been able to get over the hump.

The Vikings made it to the Class A regionals in 1981, but couldn't advance. In 2002, they lost in the regional quarterfinals. The following year, they came up short once again.

Then again in 2010.

And 2011.

And 2012.

But something seems different this season.

"I think it's possible," Fox said of advancing past the regional semis. "With our club, it's a lot about being healthy and where we are at in the third week of April...this year, we're a little stronger and a little more mature."

On an off the field, this team is closer than its ever been. They're working on a team motto, something Fox said they'll unveil in the Blue Devil Classic tournament in the coming weeks. This team's bond goes far beyond the school's halls.

"The team we have now, we've played with the same guys since middle school," Browning said. "We're all really good friends. I just think the chemistry is there right now."

With facility upgrades on the horizon, and a team of players familiar with each other in place, Lakeland Christian may finally be able to rewrite history.

"This program now, finally, has some foundation," Fox said. "It's time to grow it."

Ryan Bass is a reporter for Bright House Sports Network. Find him on twitter, @Ry_Bass.