First-year coach Rob Nelson says outfield play needs to improve
First-year coach Rob Nelson is taking over team that won six games last year and lost its best player to graduation.
Sparks is 25-63-1 in the three years since its last winning campaign, when it went 14-13 in 2013.
Nelson is not deterred.
“I’m optimistic,” he said. “I think we have some good kids, some pretty good ballplayers.”
Sparks’ new coach spent the last two years as an assistant for the Railroaders and said outfield play is the biggest area of needed improvement.
As a collective defense last spring, Sparks averaged more than four errors a game.
He is not deterred.
“I think we’re in better shape than we were last year,” Nelson said.
Sophomore Marrisa Bonta moved into the district during the offseason and will roam the outfield. Haylee Nelson, Rob’s freshman daughter, will “help us some.” And Nelson upset some track coaches by convincing a couple girls to trade their spikes for cleats.
“I was looking for someone who can run,” he said.
He didn’t necessarily have to scout the halls to find girls who can hit. Nelson believes he already has that.
- 2016 Record: 6-22-1, 5-19 3A North
- Playoffs: None
- Key Losses: Marisa Coleman
- Key Returners: Angie Ruiz, Nicole Fierro, Riley Nelson, Cynthia Barela
Seniors Angie Ruiz, who batted .317 last spring and led the team with 20 RBIs, Cynthia Barela and Abigal Hurtado are slotted to anchor the lineup. Juniors Riley Nelson (who is also Rob’s daughter), Nicole Fierro (was second on the team with a .324 average a sophomore), and Lexi Cruz add depth.
“I think we’re going to hit the ball pretty good, honestly,” Nelson said. “I think that’s probably going to be our strong suit, is our hitting. At least, I’m hoping so.”
In the circle, Nelson will turn to his oldest daughter, Riley.
The junior led the teams in innings pitched last year and figures to the same in 2017.
“She’s just another year older, another year stronger, another year smarter,” Nelson said. “I think as much experience as she had last year has really helped her.”
So, the pitching should be better. The bats will be active. And the defense is improved.
But, collective success is something that’s alluded the Railroaders.
“My personal goal, and it’s something I’ve shared with them, is I’d like to be able go make the playoffs (top six of nine in 3A North) this year,” Nelson said. “I want to be competitive. And if we can win enough games, it sure would be nice to make the playoffs this year.”
He is not deterred.
Sparks will play in a non-league tournament this weekend in Yerington before opening 3A North play next Tuesday with a doubleheader at Fernley.