Jackson baseball looks to turn it on in postseason

Andy Harris
Suburbanite correspondent
Jackson's Alex Snyder (29) heads back to the dugout after scoring in the first inning against Massillon.

JACKSON TWP. – Mid-May is a time of year when high school baseball teams aim to be peaking and playing their best baseball as the postseason gets underway.

It is not, then, a time when a squad would prefer to be away from the diamond for two weeks as it waits for clearance to exit quarantine due to COVID-19-related issues and get back to action. The Jackson Polar Bears didn’t pick their current fate, but they’re dealing with it nonetheless and as the end of their quarantine period nears, they are eager to play ball.

“It's just what it is and it’s been like this the last 15 months,” veteran head coach Bill Gamble said. “We’re trying to do everything right and be as safe and smart as we can be … the past 10 days it’s been a lot of Google Meets and Zooms and a lot of Google Docs sharing information and sharing scouring reports.”

While handling the situation as best they can has been the order of the day for the Polar Bears in recent days, there’s no question that having an extended hiatus from games and organized practices right before tournament play puts a team in a tough spot.

In addition to virtual meetings and sharing scouting information online, players are doing what they can in terms of working out and staying in game shape on their own. How they’ll look and feel once quarantine ends is tough to say, but with the first scheduled game back in action set to be the a Wednesday game against Madison in a sectional tournament contest, the stakes will be high for a team that has been a dominant form in the Canton Division I sectional and district tournament brackets in recent year.

“Our other option is to not play it and we will take it make the most out of each day we're together,” Gamble said. “We’re making sure guys stay in baseball shape as is possible.”

Jackson pitcher Mikey Olivieri delivers a pitch to a Massillon batter.

Outside of quarantine, the Polar Bears find themselves in an unusual position as it relates to the tournament. They enter with a 13-8 (5-4 in the Federal League) record and as the 11th seed in the super district that contains 35 teams spread across multiple brackets. Based on their seeding, they aren’t positioned as the favorites among a deep and talented field, but anyone who knows the program’s history of postseason success knows Jackson tends to play its best baseball when it matters most.

As the first tournament game nears, the mindset is to accept the challenge at hand, try to draw the positives out of their COVID-forced pause and come out of their corner swinging once they’re cleared to get back in the fight,

“Being the number 11 seed in a super district with 35 teams, we know there’s some uphill sledding to do and we know where we're at,” Gamble said, noting that the time off could be beneficial in a sense. “100 percent our arms are going to be rested and as healthy as we've been all year … a lot of our arms are throwing once or twice a week, and we’re more worried about chemistry in the lineup and the timing of our at-bats from the time off.”

Come later this week, the Polar Bears will find out if they can shake off their recent adversity, rediscover their rhythm and begin another postseason push.