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Start finally struck it rich a year ago after three straight seasons of losing in the City League championship.
The fourth season brought forth a CL title after the Spartans topped Bowsher in the title game.
The long-awaited breakthrough — Start hadn’t won a City League championship since 1998 — has the Spartans in position to try and defend their title.
With the talent and experience on the roster, Start is considered the team to beat in the City League.
League runner-up Bowsher appears to be Start’s toughest competition, followed by Waite, Rogers, Woodward, and Scott.
“I would expect Bowsher and us to contend for the league title,” Start coach Jason Biniker said. “Many of the schools graduated their top pitcher, and with three new coaches (in the City League), there is a lot of uncertainty.
“It’s a long season, and we’ll have some time to improve. The city champion will be the team that plays the best during the City League tournament.”
Waite coach David Quiroga, in his fifth season with the Indians, believes pitching depth will have plenty to say about who ends up playing for the City League championship. A fast start could help Waite generate the kind of momentum that could propel a title run.
Rogers, Woodward, and Scott expect to improve this season.
“I look for our team to work hard and compete in every game,” Rogers first-year coach Kenneth Rossler said. “We have a solid mix of veteran and young players that will continue to improve as the season goes on. With hard work and effort, I see improving in all facets of the game by the end of the season.”
The City League figures as a two-team race between Start and Bowsher, the past two league champions.
However, that doesn’t mean the rest of the teams will allow only two teams to fight over the title.
Start (15-12, 8-2) is looking for a repeat.
The Spartans are stocked with returning talent — nine letter winners.
Seniors Jacob Cannon and Austin Pier as well as junior Scyler Glass were All-CL performers.
Cannon, a three-year letter winner, batted .364 with 20 runs scorerd while Pier, a two-year varsity contributor, hit .260 while posting a 2.46 ERA as one of Start’s pitchers. Glass batted .325 and was 5-0 on the mound with an ERA of 0.23.
“We have a very experienced team returning off of a city championship,” Biniker said. “We need to play solid defense, develop a strong No. 1 pitcher, and keep improving on offense.”
Shaun Kelley (.382), Drake Zygula (.379), Zack Newland (.250), and John Harris (.269) are expected to have more opportunities to make a difference.
Bowsher (20-7, 10-0), whose boys basketball team just finished its best season in school history, has a new coach. Joe Guerrero, who led the Rebels on the court, will attempt to extend the winning magic on the diamond.
Seniors Mac Jewell and Braiden Greisiger are two-year letter-winners expected to lead an experienced roster.
Jewell, who helped lead the Rebels to the City League title in football as the starting quarterback, batted .379 and drove in 28 runs last spring. Greisiger’s junior season resulted in him hitting .354 with 20 RBIs and 15 stolen bases. Angelo Foust (.365), Mitch Vanderhorst (.365), Will Hunt (.364), and Joey McGorty (.325) helped Bowsher create a formidable lineup last year.
Waite (6-18, 6-4) went 0-14 in nonleague games and is motivated to avoid such a showing this spring.
Joe Keister, Ryan Mathena, Tony Smith, Gary Matney, and Josh Smenner make up Waite’s key returners. Smennner batted .279 and Smith .258 to lead all returners. Smith led Waite with 10 stolen bases.
“[We] had a low team batting average with too many strikeouts,” Waite coach David Quiroga said, of last season. “[We’re] looking to shorten swings and put the ball in play.”
Rogers (6-15, 4-6) looks to turn the corner during coach Rossler’s first year.
The Rams return a half-dozen letter winners, including senior Ryan Czajka, who batted .400 with 13 RBIs as a junior. Senior Alex Nomichit is a two-year letter winner who went 2-1 during brief work on the mound last season.
Juniors Dimitri Anderson and Jacob Dusseau had productive seasons swinging bats a year ago. Anderson hit .353 with seven RBIs, and Dusseau hit .321 with 12 RBIs.
Sophomore utility player Austin Bailey, as well as junior Devin Kerr and freshman T.J. Shinaul, could also help the Rams.
Woodward (2-17, 2-8) is looking to improve.
First-year coach Matthew Fansler will lean on returners Jacob Smigielski, Richard Moss, Andreas Rojes, and Darnell Butler to lead the way for an otherwise inexperienced group.
“We should improve significantly from last year and are looking to build a strong foundation for future teams,” Fansler said. “We should be competitive in the City League.”
Scott (1-14, 0-7) wants to move up in the race, too.
Roy Lindsey, Jermain Hamilton, Anthony Smith, and Drake Studenski represent the top returners on a team that lost two of its best players last season to graduation. Bryan Pinkney and Antonio Simmons, both graduates, batted .330 for Scott a year ago.
“We are young and inexperienced,” Scott coach Ralph Green said. “We will play and work hard.”