Led by returning all-state player Matt Longland, Sparks hoping to rebound
The baseball season is two months long.
For some teams, the nine weeks fly by like a nap after a long day. For other teams, the nine weeks feel like the long day that won end.
There’s no question which category Sparks’ 2016 season fits under.
After winning three of their first four games of the season, the Railroaders celebrated just one more win the rest of the way.
“Well, we’re coming off a not-too-good of a season where we took our lumps,” Sparks coach Greg Vasko said. “We’re just going to try to bounce back.”
Experience is always an issue at Sparks. Unlike at numerous other schools throughout the 3A North, Sparks does not boast players that spend their summers playing on travel teams or club teams. Eleven of the 16 players on this year’s JV team are playing baseball for the first time.
But Vasko and the Railroaders are catching a bit of break in that category this year. Just one starter from last year’s team graduated and a class of eight seniors is back this spring.
That class is highlighted by reigning all-state selection, Matt Longland. Longland batted an obnoxious .562 (41-for-73) last year and led the team in doubles (10) and RBIs (17). The defensive swiss army knife also 11-for-13 swiping bags.
On the mound, he went 1-1 with a 3.25 ERA over a team-high 60.1 innings – 25 more innings than the second-highest total on the team. He struck out 67 batters compared to 34 walks.
The bright spots were few and far between after that. Last year’s staff finished the season with an 8.27 ERA. The offense finished with a collective batting average of .273.
- 2016 record: 4-24, 1-23 3A North
- Playoffs: None
- Key Losses: Bruce Hicks
- Key Returners: Matt Longland, Elijah Shelton, Jorden Aguilar, Hunter Nobbs, Braden Goodnough
“I think it was just a lack of experience,” Vasko said. “Pitchers, they have to throw strikes. We have to field the ball that’s hit us and not make any mistakes. So, we have to reduce the number of errors. We can’t leave people on base. We had a lot of guys left on base during the season last year. We have to take care of those things.”
The monster senior class should help.
Elijah Shelton, Braden Goodnough, Hunter Nobbs and Jorden Aguilar as well as junior Niko Budija will play significant roles on the bump and at the plate.
“We should be a lot better off this year than we were last year,” Vasko said.
Sparks starts the season this weekend with four games at Lovelock (the same round-robin tournament it went 3-1 at last year) before beginning league play Friday, March 24 with the first of a three games at home against Lowry.
“Our goal is just to make the playoffs at this point,” Vasko said. “But we have to learn from the experience we got last year. If we don’t learn from that, then last year was kind of senseless.”