Preseason rankings don’t mean much to Andover Central baseball coach Grant Bacon, but they could make the season a little more challenging.
“The only thing I think those rankings do is they kind of put a target on your back. We’re going to get everybody’s No. 1 or 2 (starters), because we’re supposedly ranked,” Bacon said.
With Andover Central tied for sixth with Maize South in the Class 5A preseason rankings, Bacon is looking at his team to prove something.
In the program’s 12 years, the Jaguars reached the state tournament nine times. But in the past two years, Andover Central didn’t get out of its regional, falling to Bishop Carroll both times. The seniors on the team are ready for a chance at a successful postseason.
“We should not have been in that position last year,” Bacon said. “We should have taken care of the regular season, where we could have avoided (Carroll) and saw them at state if anything. I think we’ve learned that every game, every doubleheader is important.
Carelessly losing games that Bacon believed the team should have won during the regular season has been a problem for Andover Central the past two seasons.
“When you think so far in the future, you don’t take care of the game you’re at,” senior Austin Griffith said. “We got stuck in Bishop Carroll’s regional last year because we didn’t perform in the regular season like we should have.”
But with five seniors who have played together on varsity since their sophomore years, the focus and drive is higher than Bacon has seen since Central’s last state appearance in 2010.
“What I’ve seen so far from these guys, is that they’re pushing each other, they’re holding each other accountable,” Bacon said. “Now we’re just trying to fine tune things, not teach them the initial things of how we do everything. Bunt coverage, first-third double cut, all that stuff, they know how to do it, they just need the repetition.”
Central lost one starter from last year’s team, which tied for first in its league. Apart from filling the catcher position, Bacon is confident in the team’s defense.
“It seems like we have good depth on the mound, and overall our team defense is going to be really solid,” Bacon said. “Usually I give them Friday through Tuesday (of spring break) off, but we didn’t do that this year, we’ve practiced more. We’ve had morning hitting, its just been getting more swings, and hitting on the weekends, even on Sundays.”
However, the players seem to be more confident in the team’s offense, contrary to Bacon’s thoughts. The Jaguars return Griffith in the outfield, first baseman and cleanup hitter Kier Stamp, pitcher Lucas Milner, infielder Blake Meier and utility player Quentin Miller.