Sports

Hard work pays off for Schager, Sciacca

Jordan Schager (top) and Ranger Sciacca have been mainstays of this year’s Spartan varsity baseball team. - JESSE BEALS/Staff Photo
Jordan Schager (top) and Ranger Sciacca have been mainstays of this year’s Spartan varsity baseball team.
— image credit: JESSE BEALS/Staff Photo

When practice wasn’t enough, they started their own workouts.

Jordan Schager and Ranger Sciacca weren’t the greatest players back in the day.

When they first tried out for the Spartan baseball team, they didn’t dazzle with natural ability and head straight to varsity.

Instead, they got better by working hard over the summers, practicing on Saturdays for years to get where they are at – on the starting rotation that has become one of the strengths of a team that contended for the Mountain Division title this season.

Their progress made head coach Jayson Gore take notice.

“When we first saw them, they were a couple of kids that you wouldn’t look at twice,” Gore said. “But by their hard work, they’ve turned themselves into ballplayers.”

But the road to being a ballplayer was a long one.

Both Schager and Sciacca have played since they were little, and as teammates since they were 14. Yet, when they first tried out for the varsity team, there wasn’t much of a chance to get on.

“It was a little nerve wracking (at tryouts),” Schager said. “But it was comforting, because of the freshman class that we had, we could have strictly a freshman team and not have to worry about anyone getting cut.”

So they cut their teeth on the C team, with less than pleasant experiences.

“The coaches were hard on us,” Schager said. “(It was) harder than I was used to, but they whipped me into pretty good shape.”

“(The coaches) were in their last year, so they were real rough,” Sciacca said. “We practiced at Battle Point, and I remember someone complained because it was cold out, so we ran a couple times around the park.”

But the pair wanted to improve, so they did summer ball, playing on select teams, a Cobb Baseball squad coached by Gore, and Senior Babe Ruth so they could work on their hitting and their pitching mechanics.

With more games – 60 to 80 per year – they could fix problems that they wouldn’t have time for during the 20 game high school season, and keep varsity in their sights.

“Varsity was definitely a goal,”Schager said. “But mainly we wanted to play.”

It was their Saturday practices though, that both credit for their development as players. Starting the offseason of their freshman year, they bought a bunch of baseballs and some pitching screens, then invited everyone they knew who played baseball to come and work out.

Every Saturday since then, rain or shine or snow, Schager, Sciacca and outfielder David Lantz have hit and pitched for hours. If the weather was really bad, they would move it to Sunday.

“With only three guys there, you would have time to pitch to each other, or take 100 ground balls or fly balls,” Sciacca said. “We saw it was a little harder, and so we were going to have to work more to stay in baseball shape.”

Their hard work paid off. After playing “swing” – transferring between the JV and varsity teams last year – they got the call to start for the varsity team.

“I saw coach Gore several times over the offseason and he told me that he was going to be counting on us for a lot of innings,” Sciacca said. “It was good to hear that from him.”

“It was nice,” Schager said when he learned he was going to be on the mound. “It was one of my major goals to be in the starting rotation.”

They have also improved by competing against each other.

Every year since their freshman year, they have had a contest to see who can have the lowest ERA.

Last year, Sciacca won when Schager gave up a home run in the last game of the season, but Schager is ahead so far this season.

“Obviously you want to get the win for your home team, but it keeps you competitive even when it’s a 10-1 game,” Sciacca said. “You’re out there trying to get every single guy (out without scoring a run) because you don’t want the other guy to get ahead.”

They’ll keep the competition going through this summer when they’ll try to get a Senior Babe Ruth team together.

After that, they’ll leave the gear to up-and-coming JV players to keep on the tradition and move on to college.

Schager will study engineering at the University of Portland, while Sciacca will attend Whitman. Schager hopes to join the Pilots program as a walk-on, while Sciacca will reunite with long-time teammate Adam Knapp as a pitcher.

Even if the big leagues aren’t in their future, they’ll still stick with baseball, through coaching or just playing wherever they can.

“It’s amazed me how far I’ve come along,” Schager said. “I’ve learned that I’m capable of a lot more than I thought I was.”

“At the start, I don’t know if I would have stuck with something for that long,” Sciacca said. “(Saturday practice) got me committed to going out every week (to improve).”

Gore will miss their contributions.

“It’s just a good feeling being around these kids from their freshman to their senior year and see all the hard work that has paid off,” he said. “They are the kind of kids that’ll never question what’s going on or what they are doing. They’ll just (say), ‘Yes sir,’ and go about their work.

“Those two kids are some of the nicest kids, and I wish them well in the future.”

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