Lately a new year has meant a nearly new group of starters for the Grand Island baseball team.
But this year might mark a change for the Islanders.
A solid class of juniors should give Grand Island a strong foundation and a chance to turn things around from last year’s 9-18 season.
“The difference this year over recent years is we have a majority of juniors,” coach Rick Kissack said. “The last couple of years our starters were seniors who had not played a lot at the varsity level. That makes the transition period short.”
The two returning starters are juniors. Shortstop Jaden Johnson hit .375 with 12 RBIs last spring.
“Jaden had a really good spring last year,” Kissack said.
Also back is catcher/pitcher Brendan Wentling. He hit .227 with five RBIs and was 1-3 with a 5.57 ERA.
“Brendan had several good starts for us,” Kissack said. “He went deep into several games.”
Some returning faces will also bolster the junior class.
“(Second baseman) Logan Greenwalt and (third baseman) Phoenix Stevenson both came back out after not playing their sophomore years,” Kissack said.
Junior first baseman Grady Gardner hit .195 with five RBIs in limited action last year. Kissack said he had a great offseason.
Junior righfielder Lane Uhing moves up from the junior varsity after being part of the Wells Fargo American Legion juniors team that finished as the Class A runner-up last summer.
Senior pitcher Trey Sokolik looks to make an impact after seeing one inning of varsity action as a junior.
“Right now our baseball IQ is pretty good,” Kissack said. “These guys have played a lot of baseball, so the little things don’t get by them. Those things make a difference. It helps in practices and it’ll help win games.”
The Islanders are looking to begin climbing back up the ranks of Class A.
“We want to build a strong baseball foundation and put people in position to be successful,” Kissack said. “We’ve got some young players that can be very good.”
The Islanders will open their season Friday with a doubleheader against Class A preseason No. 2-rated Millard North that will be played at Creighton University starting at noon.