SPRINGFIELD TWP. The Springfield Spartans are a paradox; a team that lost just two seniors who were everyday players, but still a young team trying to figure things out as the high school baseball season gets rolling.
As second-year head coach John Kinsey and his staff try to figure out what they have on the diamond this season, they’ll deal with some of the same challenges they had last year, albeit with a squad that does have a bit more experience top to bottom.
“With only two seniors who were everyday players, we developed a pretty strong junior and sophomore class that played a lot last year,” Kinsey said.
He’s hoping that group of sophomores and juniors can build on their experience from last season, eliminate some of the mistakes that come with being new to the varsity level and take steps forward in their development both individually and as a group.
The pitching staff figures to be a central part of any success the Spartans have as transfer Jacob Garrett, who came to the district from Coventry, will join forces with returnees Logan Hornish and Colton Nutter, forming what Springfield is hoping with be a reliable trio that allows them to stay in games even if their offense isn’t clicking.
“We’re comfortable with our one, two and three guys and we feel like we have a good group of starters to rely on,” Kinsey said.
He admitted that the lineup is “still a work in progress” after graduating the team’s RBI leader from last season, Paul Stubbs. How to replace Stubbs production is one of the questions staring the Spartans down, but the composition of the batting order is also fluid at this point in the season. Logan Woods is one of the returning bats who could settle into the leadoff spot, but Joel Justice, Dylan Hanna and Hornish are also in the mix.
If the early results are an indication of how the season will go, the Spartans could be in store for a spring of close contests and dramatic endings. In their opener, they dropped a one-run decision to non-league foe Northwest, a game that contained some encouraging aspects, but also highlighted how difficult the game can be for a young team that is struggling to become more consistent.
“We played Northwest in our opener and lost 7-6, but we felt they were good measuring stick because they’r’e a team in our district (tournament) that makes the semifinals or finals every year,” Kinsey said. “We had leads of 5-1 and 6-4 but weren’t able to hold on.”
Other non-league games against foes such as Cuyahoga Falls and Wooster - teams Kinsey says play the game “the right way” - will be additional tests and will provide a snapshot of where the Spartans stand as they near league play.
One all-but-assured challenge that will present itself here and there throughout the season is weather, which cancels, delays or postpones scores of games across the state every spring. Kinsey knows there will be days when the sun is shining, the temperatures are lofty and his team has ideal conditions to play or practice, but there will also be days when the temperatures plummet near or below freezing, precipitation falls from the sky and the only viable option is to head inside the school’s fieldhouse for indoor practice work.
“Our goals have always been get better every day, to control what you can control and let's go get better,” Kinsey said. “From a mental standpoint we feel good about where we are as team and we’ve been through this before … last year was one of worst springs I’ve ever been a part of as a coach in terms of weather.”
With those and other plot twists ahead, adhering to the sports cliche of worrying about one day at a time and not looking beyond it may be the easiest way for the Spartans to traverse the road that lies in front of them and try to find their way to becoming a winning baseball team.
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