“I think we can absolutely consider our season a success,” Vasko said. “We won more games than we lost and we made it to the playoffs. It was kind of a rebuilding year with the amount of kid we had to replace, but the four seniors we had on the team did a very good job of helping the younger guys out.”
Those four seniors leading the way were Dustin Alexander, Casey Carter, Jared Longland and Keiffer Putman. And while Carter, Longland and Putman were mainstays from previous SHS squads, Alexander proved to be a new and welcomed addition to the Railroaders.
“I would say Dustin Alexander was probably the most pleasant surprise,” Vasko said. “He was a transfer over from Wooster. He didn’t get much playing time over there, but he turned into a very solid outfielder for us. He did a very good job for us and really helped us out this year.”
Behind the four elders on the team, Sparks worked its way to an 11-7 mark in Division I-A North league play. That earned the Railroaders a playoff date with Lowry, which swept the best-of-three series from SHS. Sparks finished the year with a 14-9 mark overall. Despite the early exit, Vasko said the players returning to the squad next season can use what they learned this year as a foundation to becoming better, as well as filling the shoes of the departed seniors.
“Next year is going to be a tough one because we’re definitely going to miss those four seniors,” he said. “We’re going to lose a big part of our pitching staff. I mean all the seniors pretty much were the pitching staff. We’ll have a bunch of sophomores coming back that had to get their playing experience not on JV, but kind of on-the-job-training with varsity this past year. Instead of kind of learning things slow on JV, they were tossed in there on varsity and had to learn first-hand. They can build on what they learned though. They can use what they have and utilize that to improve.”