Springfield baseball team: ‘It’s our turn’

The Springfield High School baseball team took a step back last season, going 8-19 after finishing 15-15 the year before.

But third-year coach Mike Schilling liked what he saw when practice began in February. Instead of detecting some complacency in the program, he encountered a group no longer content with the status quo.

“I think it eats at them a little bit — and that’s a good thing,” he said.

The team also knows the standards have been raised at the school because of success in other sports.

The Wildcats won a GWOC basketball title this year for the first time since 2005. They’ve also played in the Division I regionals in two of the last three seasons. And the football team reached the playoffs for the first time since 2010.

“The whole school is buying into this: We call it ‘Passing the Baton,’ ” Schilling said. “Our football team improved drastically. The basketball team just lost in the regional semis and were GWOC champs. Now, it’s our turn.”

School spirit has never been higher since North and South combined in 2008-09. Schilling said his entire team joined the rest of the student body to cheer on the Wildcats in the regionals at UD Arena last week.

“They love being part of that,” he said. “Even though they weren’t on the floor, they still felt a part of it. They take ownership in it. It’s their school.

“That’s going to help. Success breeds more success and confidence. I’ve got some good young players, and that’s why we’re optimistic.”

The Wildcats, who host Lakota East in their opener at 1 p.m. Saturday, were more competitive last year than their record suggests.

“We stranded 39 guys at third base with less than two outs. And we lost eight games by two runs or less,” Schilling said. “If you do the math, we probably could have turned our season around if we were able to punch guys home.”

Junior short stop Avery Swigart has lettered since his freshman year and hit .360 last season. Sophomore left-fielder Jacob Kearns batted .306.

But Schilling will lean heavily on his pitching staff. Swigart was 2-3 with a 3.20 ERA in 32 innings last year, while fellow juniors Nate McGlothin (2-0, 2.23 ERA), Jaykob Cave-Stevens (2-2, 5.60) and A.J. Schnitzler (2-3, 4.56) also had productive seasons.

“We feel like we have four guys who can work ahead in the count, throw strikes consistently and have good off-speed stuff,” Schilling said.

“All of them return next year, that’s the encouraging thing. We’re trying to amass some pitching — from every grade level. We want to turn guys into pitchers and keep working with them. That’s how you win high school games.”

Good glove: The Wildcats will have only one senior playing regularly in right-fielder Dyelan Youngblood, who can cover a lot of ground.

“In my opinion, he’s one of the best outfielders in the conference. He can really go get it,” Schilling said.

Fast lineup: The Wildcats will pressure opponents when they reach base.

“We’d like to utilize our speed,” Schilling said. “We’ve got four or five guys who can run. We’d like to always be a threat to put down a bunt — drag bunt, sacrifice bunt, safety squeeze.

“I thought last year, we were too predictable. A lot of that is my fault. But defenses could sit back on their heels and wait for us to strike out or hit a meaningless pop up. We’ve got to work harder on being offensive minded and making things happen.”

Reliable fielders: Defense shouldn’t be a problem this season.

“I’ve got a lot of guys who would rather play defense than hit, which is fine. If we can throw strikes and make teams put the ball in play, and we can field it, we’ll be in every game,” Schilling said.

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