By Chris Parker
Sparta baseball has a new head coach but a familiar name leading the way in Michael Willis. Willis was the head coach at Sparta for eight seasons and returns this year after a four-year break.
He is looking to build the Trojan baseball program back up after earning just one win a season ago. Sparta hasn’t had a double-digit win season since 2013.
“I believe for us to get back to the 10-win plateau we need to develop the young talent. We are fortunate at Sparta to have fall baseball. This past fall I started five and sometimes six freshmen on varsity. We did make young mistakes at times but I saw a lot of upside. We went 5-10, but gained valuable experience. I believe this will help us build on something to get us back to a winning season,” Willis said.
Senior first baseman Austin Dixon will be a leader for the young Trojans. He hit .343 last season. Juniors Carson Lowery (shortstop), Isaac Willis (pitcher) and Charles Cavazos (outfield/pinch hitter) will also be contributors from the upperclasses. Lowery hit .326 last year. Willis is returning from back-to-back seasons lost to torn ACLs. He will be relied upon to eat innings.
The large group of freshmen includes: Kaiden Kelly (utility), Steven Brown (catcher/pitcher), Logan Anderson (third base), Caden Roller (utility) and freshman Dexter Loveland (outfield/first base). Kelly hit .390 in the fall and will catch when Brown pitches. Anderson brings speed to the team. He stole 19 passes last fall.
“Our strengths as a team, though young, we have people excited about playing the game of baseball. For most of our guys baseball is there favorite sport,” Willis said. “We need our pitchers to be able to go deeper into games by throwing more strikes to keep our pitch count low. Other areas on defense, like I said earlier that will come as the season progresses due to our youth.”
Expect the young Trojans to look much different in May than they do in March.
“My expectations for the team is to improve as the season progresses. As a young team we made some youthful mistakes, however, I saw plenty of positives for us to build on and improve throughout the year,” Willis said.
Sparta opens the season on Mar. 20 at home against Howell (Okla.).