The Spartan baseball team’s road to the state tournament now runs along I-90, according to new coach Jayson Gore.
While the Metro League typically has a place or two in the 16-team bracket, the real baseball power in District 2 lies east of Lake Washington, especially in Issaquah.
Skyline bopped the Spartans 9-0 in the opening round of last year’s state tournament, while Skyline and Issaquah settled their intra-city rivalry when they met in the state title game in 2000.
“Qualifying for State will be a tremendous feat,” Gore said, noting that Bainbridge’s previous competition “is much weaker compared with teams like Skyline and Issaquah.”
Which isn’t to say he feels intimidated.
“We have a bunch of guys with great attitudes – I can’t stress that enough – experience, and a tremendous work ethic,” he said. “We have great potential and the guys are excited and anxious to start playing.”
They’ll get their first chance on Tuesday as the Spartans travel to North Kitsap, with the home opener on Thursday at 3:30 p.m. against Sequim. After that, the team enters Metro League play.
“I don’t know anything about the Metro League,” Gore said. “But there are some solid teams.
Gore, the youngest member of the coaching staff when he joined the staff as pitching coach two years ago, is now the elder statesman, as both former head coach Mike Reese and assistant coach Glen Kellow moved on to Olympic College. His new staff consists of pitching coach Jeff Ridgeway, a former Port Angeles star who’s playing at the AA level in the Tampa Bay organization, and Carl French, a member of the 2000 Bainbridge varsity.
“You can’t estimate the value of a guy like Ridgeway,” Gore said. “Your attention span really expands when you have a pro talking with you.”
Gore inherited a deep, talented, and supremely versatile team, as most of the players on the roster are capable of playing two or three positions.
He was reluctant to single out individual players or even project a starting lineup, though he did say that “I’m looking for big years from the seniors.”
He added, “With nine returning starters, we’re loaded at every position. There’s a lot of competition for spots. So I just throw the dust up and let it settle.”
The “dust” includes 10 seniors. They are outfielder Joss Gramstad, catcher/first baseman P.J. Holton, pitcher/first baseman Matt Kuchin, pitcher/third baseman Scott Leslie, pitcher/second baseman Dustin Lounsbury, pitcher/second baseman Ross McKinstry, outfielder Simon Pollack, third baseman/designated hitter Marc Rasmussen, pitcher/outfielder Steve Tawresey and catcher Jeff Tracy.
Juniors are pitcher/catcher/right fielder Troy Apro, pitcher/catcher Pat Crowthers, outfielder Sam Donnally, outfielder Pat Fiander, shortstop/pitcher Kevin Hebner and catcher/outfielder Kevan Neill.
Pitcher/first baseman Bill Kirkwood is the lone sophomore.
“Mike (Reese) left a great program,” Gore said. “He did a hell of a job here.”
Gore is looking forward to putting his own stamp on the program.
“My main goal is for my guys to respect the game, then respect themselves and respect life,” he said. “Baseball is a game of failure. The guys need to learn how to deal with it. They have to learn to channel their aggression, not get down on themselves.
“And we also want to have fun.”
JV and freshmen
JV coach Mike Benz is also optimistic about the upcoming season.
“This team could beat some varsity teams,” Benz said. “We have speed, depth, good defense and we’re nine deep in pitchers. They’re all quality guys, not just throwing the ball over the plate.
“We have our biggest roster ever. And they’re all good players.”
Juniors are Andy Aversano, Matt Colley, Mike Hope, Chris McKay, Andy Nelson, Jack Replinger and Kyle Rohl.
Sophomores are Schuyler Boone, Micah Bowers, Andrew Chavanu, Mike Ersser, Nathan Gottlieb, Adam Knappe, Ryan Magraw, Hunter Merkle, Jake Newfer, Scott Rasmussen, Kevin Roach and Nick Schuetz.
The team opens play on Tuesday at North Kitsap, with the home opener on Thursday at 3:30 at Battle Point.
The freshman team opens play today with a doubleheader at Liberty, yet another Issaquah school.
“They respect the game and they respect each other,” said coach Gary Prisk of his Spartan freshmen.
The team plays two more games on the road next week before the home opener, a doubleheader against Mercer Island at the high school field. The first pitch is at 11 a.m.
Team members include David Anderson, Jeremy Bjornson, Douglas Christopherson, Austin Ingalls, Blake Jensen, David Lantz and Jonathan Mathisen. Others are Nolan Meininger, William Packard, Christopher Randish, Jordan Schager, Jon Swanson, Ian Walline, David Wesolowski and Jon Williams.