By Matt Nestor
The Hononegah Indians were deep and loaded last year as they swept their way through the NIC-10 conference and on their way to a regional championship.
The problem for this year is that team was a senior-heavy team. Which means there are a lot of new kids on the block for the Indians and head coach Matt Simpson.
After having such an experienced team last year, six of the 16 players on the roster are freshmen and sophomores. That means for the Indians to continue their success, they will have to grow up fast.
“We graduated a lot of seniors,” Simpson said. “Our expectations don’t change going into any year. We expect to win a regional and be at the top of the conference somewhere. Just because we’re young doesn’t mean our expectations have changed.”
The Indians will be led by two of the top returning players in the conference. Ryan Scarpetta is arguably the best pitcher in a deep conference, while Jake Lanning should help stabilize the offense after playing as a sophomore.
“I think we’re still going to be strong defensively and with pitching,” Simpson said. “If we can be pretty good defensively, then we can be pretty good as a team.”
Offensively, the Indians don’t return much. But what they do bring back is the two, three and four hitter from last year’s team. Simpson said that if the rest of the lineup finds ways to get on base, the offense may turn out to be better than expected.
“We may struggle to score runs at times, so we’re going to have to execute,” he said. “The middle of our order is going to be strong. If we can get some guys on base ahead of them, that will help.”
Above all else, though, Simpson said his team will have to grow up before the loaded conference schedule begins. If the team will continue to work through the season, he feels this team can be right back where they were last year, as the regional champion.
“We’re going to have to be patient as a coaching staff realizing that we’re young,” he said. “I don’t expect us to come out of the gate and be at that level. If kids continue to work and get better, our goal is to be playing our best baseball in May.”
From the March 24-30, 2010 issue