Leafs working hard for spots

Amy Boldt
Zach Hungate crushes the pitch last season for GHS. Hungate returns for his senior season of baseball.

The bats are out and the gloves are dusted off for a new year of Geneseo baseball. And the 2009 Leafs already have high expectations for themselves.

“We want to win the NCIC title, win 20 games and a regional title,” said head coach Darin Pardoe. “We are hosting regionals and that will be good motivation to win the title on our home field.”

With nine returning seniors, all with some varsity experience and six juniors playing at the varsity level for the first time there is definitely competition for sports in the lineup.

“It should be a benefit,” said Pardoe about the competition between teammates for spots. “The competition will make them work harder, but there are also some kids that don’t quite get that. Sometimes they think they are a senior and they can just slide into a spot. On the other end with competition for spots it should mean we have two quality people at one spot and give us more flexibility.”

The senior members of the squad include Jimmy Cheak, Blake Foehrkolb, Adam Haviland, Zach Hungate, Bryton Kincaid, Jake Martens, Jake Schlindwein and Austin Yeater.

“I want the seniors to be successful because when you put the time and effort into doing something you want them to succeed,” said Pardoe. “They deserve to be successful and we are going to do all we can to get where we want to be.”

Behind the plate for the Leafs this year will be Schlindwein, who gained experience as a junior catching the first 15 games and then some later in the year.

“Jake has taken on the leadership role,” said Pardoe. “He is more than ready and will do a good job behind the plate. He does a great job and does what a leader needs to do.”

The six juniors joining the team are Michael Atwell, Justin Densberger, Devan DePauw, Sam Hamer, Jason Johnson and Chase VanOpdorp.

“We have some juniors that will contribute right away and others that are almost there, but need to work on a couple different things to get them to be an every game contributor,” said Pardoe.

When looking at this year’s squad coach Pardoe stated his team is experienced, but also inexperienced.

“Out of the seniors we have six of them who have quality varsity time, but they didn’t start every game,” said Pardoe. “I know we have improved our hitting compared to last year and the guys have worked on it in the offseason, which will help us. I don’t think it is the best hitting team I have ever had and that’s okay because we are pretty good defensively, too. If you hit well and play good defense we should do well.”

The biggest challenge the Leafs will face this season  is on the mound.

“The biggest shoes to fill is what we lost in terms of pitching,” said Pardoe. “It is probably our biggest question mark. Our season is going to go on how well we do on the mound.

“Last year with Jay Bergles we knew we were going to get a good five or six innings and he would only give up three or four runs. Right now, I am not sure who that guy is yet.”

Defense and hitting will be the two big keys for GHS this season.

“Defensively we are flexible since we have guys that can play multiple positions especially in the infield and that is a strength,” said Pardoe. “We have a strength again in our hitting and I feel right now we have six maybe seven guys that can maybe hit .300 and we will be able to score a lot of runs.”

Coach Pardoe stated the outlook of the NCIC?this season is ‘wide open’.

“No one has a dominant pitcher and anybody can beat anybody and anybody is beatable,” said Pardoe.

The Leafs ended the season with a 13-21 overall record and were ousted out of the IHSA playoffs in the first round by Sterling, 3-2.

Geneseo begins this season on the road with a double header against Riverdale at 11 a.m. March 21. The sophomore squad will be at home at 11 a.m. March 21 in a double header with Riverdale at Richmond Hill.

Austin?Yeater fires the ball over to first. Yeater is one of nine seniors on the 2009 Leaf roster.