Division II Team Of The Week: Week 7 - Sparta Highland


Bruce Hefflinger
PBR Ohio Senior Writer

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Division II Team Of The Week: Week 7 - Sparta Highland

MARENGO - In recent years Sparta Highland has featured players that went on to play college baseball at places like Clemson, Nebraska, Florida, Siena Heights and Sinclair. While that is not the case this season, the Fighting Scots are doing things never done previously.

The Prep Baseball Report Division II Team of the Week has set a win record at the school with 26 victories this year, breaking the old mark of 24. This past Saturday in an 11-3 triumph over Bloom-Carroll, Highland also set the season mark for hits with 301.

“We have a group of no-names, not the star power we have had in the past,” explained head coach Donnie Kline. “This year we have a group of unproved and untested guys, but they have responded well. They play for each other which is a lot of fun to watch.”

In addition to the win over Bloom-Carroll, Highland defeated Westerville Central 5-3 last week. But the highlight was a come-from-behind 3-1 sectional final tournament victory over River Valley, a team they had beaten rather easily twice earlier in the season.

Trailing 1-0 in the bottom of the sixth, the Fighting Scotts took the lead on a walk, a single by Zach Pinkerton, a passed ball and a suicide squeeze base hit by Jon Jensen that, combined with an error on the play, produced two runs. Highland added another tally in the frame and that was enough for Blake Jodrey, who allowed only a first-inning run in a complete-game effort. The junior is now 7-0 on the season with a 0.50 ERA.

Senior southpaws Logan Shaffer and Wyatt Graves are other pitchers that have excelled this year for Kline and company along with sidearm closer Owen Mott. Shaffer stands 7-0 while Graves, a Capital University commit, is 6-2. Mott, a senior right-hander, has three saves.

“We pride ourselves on pitching and defense but the one thing that has stood out about this team is the balance,” explained Kline. “As a coach you try to find different ways to win and this year it’s been base running and hitting. It’s been a weird year, but we’re just able to find ways to win. It’s been a good recipe so far.”

A .380 team batting average certainly helps the cause with Jensen, clean-up hitter Dom Carter and leadoff batter Rider Minnick all with a better than .400 average. Jensen, who has 12 extra-base hits on the year, shares catching duties with Luke Cain in the three-hole spot in the order while Carter, who tops the team in RBIs with 33, has moved to first base this year after playing middle infield as a sophomore.

Minnick, called by Kline - “the closest thing we have to a star” - is a junior shortstop who has struck out just once in 118 plate appearances.

“This group is a lot of fun, I don’t want it to end,” noted Kline, a Mansfield Madison graduate who took over as head coach in 2015. “This team has shown a lot of resiliency. A lot of times in high school baseball things don’t go the right way, but this year the guys just find ways to win games that maybe we’d drop in the past.”

A district semifinal matchup with Bishop Hartley awaits Sparta Highland on Tuesday, and a win would advance the program the farthest it has gone since Kline has been in charge of the program. The only team in school history to make it to regionals was in 2006, ironically the same team that held the record for wins in a season prior to this year.

“That team went to the Final Four,” Kline said. “It’s always been the measuring stick here.”

Should Highland defeat Hartley, either Licking Valley or Hebron Lakewood would be next.

“Division II baseball in central Ohio is very talented,” Kline related. “You’ve got to have a lot go your way. We’re hoping this is the year.”

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A Look Back At The 2018 Season:

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