QUINCY -- When Ryan Oden heard Malachi Lentz tore his ACL in his left knee during football season, he feared what that meant for the Quincy Notre Dame baseball team.
"It just hurt," said Oden, the second-year Raiders coach. "He's played every spot in the infield besides catcher for us. He sets the tone for us a lot."
Lentz suffered the knee injury in QND's victory over Macomb in Week 6 last fall. It was his first year playing football.
"I never played flag football or any kind growing up," Lentz said. "I just wanted to do it because it seemed like a Raider tradition to go out for football. I wanted to be involved, and I missed having a group of guys to hang out with during football season."
The injury put in doubt that he would play his senior season with the baseball team, which promises to be successful. He's one of several returning starters from a team that was one victory away from the Class 2A state tournament.
Lentz hit .369 last season -- the highest of any Raider returning this season -- and drove in 25 runs while hitting near the top of the order.
He was going to do everything possible to play baseball.
"I knew when I injured, it was going to take some time," Lentz said. "They say six to eight months, but there's no limit to the work you can do to rehab it. I used baseball as my motivation and the great group of guys we have back and how this season is going to be one to remember."
On the second day of practice, Lentz was cleared by doctors to play baseball.
"It took me a couple days to realize my knee is OK and I can go at full speed," Lentz said. "I haven't looked back since."
Oden plans to work Lentz back slowly during the early part of the season.
"We'll ease him into it by letting him DH," Oden said. "Maybe a little at first and let him get comfortable, and maybe let him make a couple falls at practice to let him know his knee is OK. He'll probably be out on the field by the first of April on a regular basis."
Lentz said he doesn't regret playing football.
"I was just really unlucky," he said.