Spartans counting on solid defense

Pitcher/first basemen Jordan Schager takes the ball home during practice. - DOUGLAS CRIST/Staff Photo
Pitcher/first basemen Jordan Schager takes the ball home during practice.
— image credit: DOUGLAS CRIST/Staff Photo

Picked to finish third in Metro, they’ll try to best that forecast.

Defense wins championships.

It’s become a cliché in sports, but defense – more notably infield defense – will be the foundation the Bainbridge Spartans build on for the 2005 prep baseball season.

“They have the potential to be the best infield out there in the league and in the state, in my opinion,” assistant coach Larry Gonwick said. “They’re very good. They’re very polished and smooth.”

Junior second baseman Matt Frazee agrees with his coach’s outlook.

“Between Brendan Gent and me and (Zach) Peach up the middle, I think we’re pretty solid. You’re not going to find any defensive kids who are better than that,” Frazee said. “We’ve been playing together for so long and just know each other so well.”

The starting infield – third baseman Gent, shortstop Peach, second baseman Frazee, all juniors, and sophomore first baseman Robbie Stevenson – are expected to lay the groundwork and make the Spartans competitive in their division.

Bainbridge went 10-6 and finished fourth in the Metro League Mountain Division last year, and they don’t expect things to be any easier this year with perennial state power O’Dea – which finished fourth in state in both 2002 and 2003 – residing in their division, along with several other tough teams. The Spartans have been picked by the conference coaches to finish third in their division this year.

“We play O’Dea, Eastside Catholic, Nathan Hale, Seattle Prep and Bishop Blanchet,” Gonwick said. “These are all the top teams in 3A, so there’s no slack there. There will be no easy opponents.

“We have been emphasizing since Monday that the league games will be critical.”

“O’Dea is our biggest rival right now,” Frazee said. “They’re very good at baseball because they have a well put-together program.”

But the Spartans will not be pushovers themselves.

Along with slick fielding around the diamond, the outfield – anchored by left fielder David Lantz, center fielder John Williams and right fielder Blake Jensen, all seniors – will provide defense and power, along with leadership, in the middle of the lineup.

“We need them to be competitive and step up,” Gonwick said. “They’re going to be some of our big bats, so we’ll need them to be effective at the plate.”

Hitting won’t be a problem, as evident by Frazee, who homered several times at practice Thursday, a result of his off-season training.

Gonwick also thinks his squad will do well at the bat average-wise, as they have more hitters who can make contact rather than swinging for the fences.

“We’re going to emphasize our speed more, rather than be a power team,” he said.

The main question mark for the Spartans will be pitching. The rotation has not thrown many innings at the varsity level, so they will be fresh, but not battle tested.

Seniors Ranger Sciacca and Jordan Schager will be the top two starters, but Gonwick feels junior C.J. Hall, who pitched in a few games for the varsity as a sophomore, will be key for the team.

“He went back and forth from the JV to the varsity (last year) and he did very well for us in the opportunities that he had,” he said. “This year we expect him to continue (at that high level) and he will be very important to us this season.”

Gonwick also expects Stevenson, the only left-hander on the staff, and Frazee to contribute as relief pitchers.

Despite the concern about pitching, Frazee feels they will be tough to handle.

“We had some fun last year, but just a little too much,” he said. “Hopefully this year we’ll have some fun but, win while we’re doing it.”

The team is coached by Jayson Gore, who missed Thursday’s practice for the delivery of a future player, a son.

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