Column: Lions’ Severa keeps his head in the game

Razor-sharp focus. In-your-face effort. Finding ways to win.

In other words, Kieran Severa is a senior who doesn’t want his baseball career to end just yet and is packing all the thrills he can into what little time he has left.

Severa plays center field and bats leadoff for Lawrence High. In a few months, he’ll play outside linebacker or strong safety for Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa. He was hitting baseballs hard, not running backs, Thursday night in Hoglund Ballpark, where he helped the Lions to an early lead in a game they would win against cross-town rival Free State, 5-4, in nine innings.

Severa singled his first time up and stole second base and in his second at-bat doubled. Most guys swinging the bat like that can’t wait to get up there to bruise another baseball with all their might. A good leadoff hitter doesn’t look at it that way. Nothing ever trumps the goal of taking the smartest path to get on base. On this third at-bat, Severa saw the third baseman playing back and thought it would be a good time to drag a bunt down the line. He bunted his way aboard, stole third later in the inning and scored his third run of the night.

“The bunt’s always in the back of my mind,” Severa said. “I practice bunting a lot in practice.”

That’s why he’s so good at it. His speed is one reason he’s good at stealing bases, but just one of many.

“Being able to read pitchers so you can get a good jump is the biggest thing,” Severa said. “If I’m stealing a base, I’m not going to get thrown out. (Wednesday vs. Free State) was the first time I got picked off trying to steal. A lefty picked me off. I take a lot of pride in stealing bases and not getting thrown out. It’s a huge part of my game.”

How does he read the pitcher when asking himself “Should I stay or should I go?”

“I usually try to get his rhythm, after he comes set, how much time does he take?” Severa said. “When I get on base, I get off a little try to get him to throw over, see if he has hesitation or something he does different. Once I have a feel for how he picks off, how he’s throwing home, I can get a feel for his body language, his rhythm.”

Severa’s good head for the game will come in handy the rest of his life when he watches baseball. He’ll see the game at deeper levels than most of us. For now, he’s more interested in playing.

“Every game from now on is maybe my last official baseball game,” Severa said. “So that’s always in my head. I’m just trying to leave it all out there.”