Records can be deceiving, and the Sumner High baseball team’s record last season was just that.
On the outside, a 23-2 record would be a success — but it wasn’t. It was that final loss of the season that hurt the most.
"We had a lot of success last year, but our schedule wasn’t preparing us for where we needed to be," Sumner coach Casey Adcox said. "But when you’re facing a team that can smack you in the mouth when you don’t bring your ‘A’ game — that really does a lot of the work for you."
Heading into last season’s Class 2A state playoffs, Sumner was thought to be a championship-caliber squad, if not be one of the final four teams left standing.
But then the wheels fell off against Anacortes in the 2A quarterfinals as the Spartans just couldn’t get bats going and fell, 1-0, in a season-ending loss. It was one of those moments where Sumner wasn’t prepared.
"That loss didn’t feel good to for the guys," Adcox said. "It’s a hard loss to take when you throw no-hit baseball and still lose a game — baseball can be a cruel sport."
This year, Sumner (6-1) is already off to a great start, tied for first with rival Bonney Lake (6-1) as both teams are 2-0 in early league play. Starting off the move into the Class 3A SPSL while swinging the bats well is the first goal the Sumner squad has set.
"We feel as long as we can swing the bats well, we’ll be a tough team to beat," captain Chase Torgison said.
Goal No. 1 for the Spartans is about getting through league first, then seeing where the cards lie.
"We set some goals for ourselves, but the first step is getting through league," Adcox said. "If we can do that, we’ll be in good shape come postseason."
Captains Gage Whitehead and Torgison are set to be one heck of a punch in the middle of the order. It’s the combination of power and speed that makes the duo so dangerous.
"We can hit for average and we can hit for power as a team," Torgison said. "I think our biggest advantage is that we can run the bases. Stealing a bag or running from first to third or scoring is huge, especially in close games."
It goes beyond just these two captains for the Spartans’ offense. With Josiah Fidecaro at the No. 2 spot and DH Johnny Staley hitting between Whitehead and Torgison, Sumner’s offense just might be one of the more complete squads in state.
"Having Gage hitting in front of me allows me to see a lot of pitches," said Staley after Sumner’s 7-1 win over Emerald Ridge on March 28. "It allows you (as a hitter) to know a pitchers tendencies and make adjustment."
The early numbers speak for themselves: Sumner outscored its opponents, 26-2, in three games over the weekend. Offense should not be a problem.
Last season Sumner had dominant pitching every game, and the defense just shut down opponents, making little mistakes.
This year the defense is its usual self — a steady handed group with some of the best range in the infield and outfield; there shouldn’t be any problems there. Adcox believes this year’s squad might be better than last year’s.
"What I like about our team is that we can run and play defense," Whitehead said. "Our offense will always keep us in games, but it’s our defense that’s going to make us stand out."
With ace Luke Hubbard graduated, it’s the pitching that’s has the question mark. It’s now time for players such as seniors Joey Muscarnera and Staley to step into that role.
"We have a lot of guys who are going to pitch more than they have in the past," Adcox said. "Pitching is still going to be a strength, it’s just can someone step up."
On Saturday, Muscarnera didn’t have his best stuff but was able to pitch four innings of one-hit baseball against 4A SPSL foe Emerald Ridge. It’s those games that show a pitcher’s progression.
"I have a good defense behind me, so (I) tried to get (Emerald Ridge) to hit it to them," Muscarnera said after the 7-1 win.
"Joey’s matured as a pitcher," Adcox said. "He showed trust to guys behind him, and that’s what we want."
As Sumner heads into league play, it will be a dogfight the rest of the way. But one thing the Spartans can take to heart: A team doesn’t have to win the league title to be a favorite come playoff time.
After all, Bonney Lake finished third in league last year before just coming up short of a state title. Just making it out of the 3A SPSL is enough.
"We want to win the league title," Whitehead said. "We’re not looking past what’s in front of us, but we know the team we have and what we’re capable of. Winning the league gets us there."