When spring training comes to mind, so does Florida and Arizona, where professionals go for the preseason. This year, East High’s baseball team took the same approach.
“I wasn’t for sure how it was going to work out, but all of our guys got along well, didn’t have any problems,” East coach Ryan Bensch said. “It was our spring training.”
The Aces took off for Arizona when spring break began and returned Tuesday.
“We just kind of drilled in our guys’ heads that that’s why we’re down there, to practice and get better,” Bensch said. “It was tough because it was our first trip, but to build on our leadership and our commitment and our camaraderie of the 18 guys we did take, it was great.”
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The trip to Arizona offered skill building and team building. Not only did the team practice, it also attended spring training games and climbed a mountain the last day of the trip.
“Camelback (mountain) was pretty awesome. I think that really built our team a lot, to be able to overcome a lot of adversity and get all the way up,” senior Dillon Youngman said. “I think it was a positive effect.”
A majority of East’s team is upperclassmen — seven seniors and eight juniors — that make up a close-knit core. Six starters return for the Aces, who were 15-6 last season.
“Our seniors have been playing varsity since they were freshmen, so they’re getting it, they’re understanding what it means to be seniors and in the system for four years,” Bensch said. “Our key leadership is those returning guys.”
While Youngman and Bensch agree East’s hitting will be strong, the return of All-City outfielders Jordan Knox and Nick Ragins will contribute to a solid defense.
“When we just throw strikes, I’ve got confidence, and I know that our own guys have confidence in ourselves and in each other that every ball that’s put in play, our defense can handle it and do what they need to do to get the right out,” Bensch said.
Ragins said focus will be a key to the Aces’ success.
“I feel like we can be one of the top in the City League, we’ve just got to focus in practice and execute in games,” Ragin said. “If you focus you’re going to be successful.”