“I think a lot of people have written us off because we lost so many seniors from last year,” Sparks coach Greg Vasko said. “We lost eight seniors from a year ago and all of them started somewhere. Four of them were starting pitchers in our rotation as well. So that was important to our success. I think a lot of people assume and think we will be down this year because we lost so much, but I think we’re going to have a good year.”
With the Maroon and Gold losing eight key components of its Mount Rose championship roster, including Player of the Year and first team all-state player Dennis Morelli and three Mount Rose first teamers, other teams throughout the league and around the 3A have good reason to believe Sparks may struggle. Counting the all-league winners and remaining graduated seniors, 170 out of the 258 runs the Railroaders scored last season are unaccounted for, along with 118 out of 153 RBI. Vasko is remaining optimistic his team can duplicate the success it had with its 17-9 overall record and 10-2 finish in league play.
“We just have to do what we have to do and try to get better every day,” Vasko said. “It’s tough losing those guys and it’s going to be tough to move on without them, but we’re just going to play. You can’t replace a player like Dennis Morrelli. League MVP and first team all-state. You can’t replace somebody like that. He wasn’t the only one either. We had seven other guys that started that were really good. We lost some really good pitchers too. It’s just going to take time. It’s not going to happen overnight. We’re focused on the group we have and we’re excited about the year.”
In order to go about fulfilling their coach’s goals, the Railroaders will lean on a trio of returners that contributed to last season’s team, led by senior shortstop and pitcher Brandon Harris, who earned first-team league honors as a second baseman while batting .378 with 33 runs and 17 RBI. Sparks will also be guided by junior infielder Jared Longland, a second teamer last season, and senior outfielder Quinn Lightfoot, who made the honorable mention list.
Aside from those three returners, a lot of the kids hitting the diamond for the Maroon and Gold will be new to the varsity level. Vasko said he is not worried about his team’s forthcoming performance.
“They played summer ball together so they have a pretty good work ethic,” Vasko said. “As a group, they have good chemistry so that helps. But as far as playing at a higher level, it’s going to be tougher. I think they are prepared though and I think they can do it. We’re all positive about having a good year.”