SPRINGFIELD TWP. The early weeks of a new season are largely about waiting for the picture to come into focus.
As a new baseball season gets underway, the Springfield Spartans are a team looking to put the right pieces in place in order to chase the lofty goals they’ve set for their season. A program that has reached the district tournament three straight seasons is intent on more success and to make that a reality, Springfield will need to answer a few major questions.
One is the team’s rotation, which doesn’t have a definitive ace, but rather several players competing for the spot.
“Although we don't have a clear cut number one at this point, we have four to five guys with varsity experience from last year,” head coach Randy Jarvis said. “I believe once the scrimmage games are finished, the number one will emerge moving into the opener.”
After going 16-14 last season and 6-9 in Portage Trail Conference play, the Spartans have a quartet of seniors at the core of their returning group. Chase Johnson is among those battling for a spot at the top of the rotation and will play second base when he’s not on the mound.
Fellow seniors Andrew Hanna and Travis Whitecotton anchor the left side of the infield at shortstop and third base, respectively, while Jordan Dray provides a veteran presence to steady the outfield from his spot in center field.
A fifth senior, Cameron Shultz, is a newcomer to the varsity roster, but is also in the mix for the rotation as the season gets underway.
The players who do return have been in their share of big games and according to Jarvis, that experience is a big reason why the Spartans felt good about having big goals for the season.
“The team’s biggest strength is experience in big games and the expectation to win every time we take the field,” Jarvis said.
Seeing last season end in a 2-1 heartbreaker to eventual district champion St. Vincent-St. Mary despite outhitting the Irish left a bitter taste in the Spartans’ mouths, but that disappointment is also a motivating factor for those who returned.
Improvement on a smaller and larger scale is the mission this season, both individually and collectively.
“We are coming off three district tournament appearances in a row and expectations are high,” Jarvis said. “Moving past districts and deeper into state tournament has been the goal from day one. Winning the PTC Metro and beating Ellet are all big goals for us as well.”
The Ellet game, although not a league game, is a highlight for virtually every Springfield sports team at any level, as the neighborhood rivals square off almost every season. The baseball game between the two schools has recently become a special after-dark affair made possible by the lights at JEDD Park, the Spartans’ home field.
This season’s game will be an afternoon contest, but the stakes will still be high. It’s one of the first contests and an early test in what Springfield hopes will be a season that meets and surpasses its expectations.
Reach Andy at 330-580-8936
On Twitter: @aharrisBURB