After the five-game skid suddenly brought the Railroaders’ season to an end, SHS suffered an even larger loss, this time to graduation as nine senior players ended their careers at Sparks. It is a void the Railroaders will have to fill with a bounty of youth.
“We have a lot of young guys,” Sparks coach Greg Vasko said. “We have three seniors returning and a transfer, then two juniors and then the rest are all sophomores, so we’re definitely young. They’re definitely learning on the job. Any normal year, all these sophomores would probably be playing JV. So these kids are going to have to step it up.
“In our summer ball program, these kids started out and didn’t do so well in the beginning but toward the end they put it together and started playing better. A lot of these kids played together so it’s not like we’re coming in completely fresh. They’ll play well.”
While much of the roster has plenty of experience to gain, Vasko said it will be the responsibility of the three returning seniors to show the way.
“The older guys are going to have to lead us,” he said. “We’re young, but we have some leadership. They just have to lead by example. They just have to show what Sparks is about. We want to go to the next level, so we’ll see what we can do. If those guys take that role upon themselves, then we should be okay.”
It is a task the seniors are ready to take.
“I think the biggest thing we need to show them is that it takes focus,” senior Casey Carter said. “A lot of the new guys are sophomores, so they only had one year with the JV. So we just have to kind of show them what it takes at the varsity level.”
Senior Jared Longland echoed the sentiments.
“I think the biggest thing we have to show them is probably the right attitude and just learning how it is up on varsity,” Longland said. “There’s no screwing around like we did on JV. It was kind of all about fun and games on JV, but now we’re here to win. I think we could do just as good as any year. It all depends on mistakes, little mistakes. That’s what kills us every year.”
Should the Railroaders avoid the errors that have plagued them and repeat the winning start they had a year ago it will behind their arms on the mound.
“I think our strength will probably be our pitching,” Vasko said. “We have our whole staff back from last year, minus one guy. Keiffer Putman and Jared led us last year so with them being back, we have a solid pitching staff. Casey pitched some last year as well and we have a couple younger guys who can throw as well, so pitching wise we should be okay. Hitting wise we have to keep working on it and fielding wise, we have to keep getting better as well.”
Sparks will get an immediate chance to show off its bullpen and develop its defense and bats. The Railroaders open their season Friday at home versus Hug at 3:00 p.m. before going to Lovelock on Saturday for a double-header.
“Our goal is that we want to make the playoffs and then see how far we can go,” Vasko said. “That’s our goal. I’m hoping we can take care of business throughout the season. I guess we’ll find out this weekend.”
Putman and the rest of the Railroaders are eager to chase that goal.
“We have to improve and focus on just the little things,” the senior said. “Everybody wants to get to the playoffs and even further. Everybody really wants to go to Vegas and win it all.”