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Despite rough start, Spartans still feeling confident

April 10, 2019
Nik Zirounis , The Town Crier

It hasn't been the most successful of starts for the Boardman baseball team in 2019.

Four losses in a row sent the Spartans into an 0-4 hole. Thanks to two wins out of three games last week, Boardman's boys were able to pull their record to 2-4. Still, head coach Joe Gabriel is expecting a little more from his seasoned squad.

"We need to play harder and need our seniors to lead the way," explained Gabriel in an email last weekend. "We need to put the ball in play offensively more often."

That lack of offense certainly derailed the Boardman bunch in four of their losing efforts. The Spartans have been shutout four times, including a 7-0 whitewash at the hands of rival Austintown Fitch on April 2. The stage was set for the Spartans when they were eliminated 11-0 on Opening Day at mighty Massillon Jackson. Coach Gabriel believes that part of his team's problems stem from the purposely stacked schedule he set to make his team a tougher unit. So far, that plan has backfired a bit.

"We're off to a slow start, but have played a difficult schedule," he said. "Massillon Jackson and Walsh Jesuit (who beat Boardman 6-0) are both in the top 10 in the state. We also had two tough conference games with Canfield (which resulted in two Boardman losses)."

One day after falling to Fitch, Gabriel's gang came back and edged the Falcons 8-7. That triumph pulled the Spartans to 2-2 in the All American Conference. Although Boardman built an early lead, the Falcons fought back with six runs in the fourth inning to go ahead 7-3. The Spartans scored twice in the fifth and three more times in the sixth to pull out a sloppy win. It was sloppy because the Spartans committed nine errors on the day. Disappointing defense has been a trend for the Boardman kids since the opener against Jackson and is a facet of the game that needs worked out soon.

"We overcame a tough day on defense (versus Fitch)," Gabriel said. "Defensively we need to improve a lot moving forward in order to start winning more consistently."

Seniors Travis Harvey and Mike Fetsko and junior Connor Miller all had two RBI's in the win over their Red Tier cousins.

There was no shortage of offense in the Spartans other victory this season. Boardman bashed 14 hits and scored in every inning besides the first and seventh as it dismantled Ursuline 15-5 on March 28 at Cene Park. The Irish actually held a 3-0 lead after one inning before Boardman began its offensive onslaught. Senior Charlie Davis was "an RBI machine" according to his coach as he had a double, two singles and five ribbies. Harvey and Fetsko joined Davis in the three hit club. Seniors Dylan Gurski and Luke Stauffer had two hits each. All four of those Spartans knocked in two runs apiece. The beneficiary of the offensive fireworks was junior right-handed starter Mason Smith who worked five innings to earn the win. Smith gave up just one run on five hits while fanning seven Ursuline batters. He showed great command by walking just one. Smith, Gurski and junior left-hander Tyler Peterson have been three Spartan slingers who have done a fairly decent job on the bump.

"Our pitching has been pretty good so far and has kept us in games," said Gabriel.

There are two more huge conference games on tap this week for Boardman. A home-in-home series with Howland was slated for Monday on the road and Tuesday at home. Boardman will visit Poland on April 11 before embarking on a trip to play at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida on Spring Break. Gabriel expects to learn a lot about his boys down south and hopes the great weather and stiff competition can catapult them into playoff contention.

"Our Florida trip should help us improve and get more into a rhythm as a team," he said.



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