By Sam Wilson
The Springville-Griffith Institute varsity baseball season has ended in the same round, to the same team, by similar scores each the last two seasons. A group of third-year starting seniors hopes to make sure that doesn’t happen in their last campaign with the Griffins.
Collin Rice, Evan Elkins, Austin Lux and Jarrett Wolf have all started since their sophomore season and now it’s their turn to lead the Griffins on the baseball diamond.
Lux and Rice lead SGI’s pitching staff, along with by first-year varsity junior Nick Emmick and Elkins is the closer for Joel Lux’s second season as head coach.
“They definitely put a little work in the offseason to get stronger,” Joel Lux said. “They’ve lost to the same team in the playoffs two years in a row now. Depew’s got a very good team and we’ve lost by one run two years in a row in the playoffs.”
In total, nine of the team’s 15 players are seniors, eight of them being returning varsity letter winners: Rice (P/2B/3B), Elkins (OF/P), Lux (P/SS), Wolf (C, 2B), Ryan Johnson (DH), Mike Sobota (2B, SS, 3B), Garon Domes (OF) and Cody Wells (1B, OF, P). The exception is Sean Barry (OF), who is playing baseball for the first time in three years after two knee injuries from football.
Emmick (P, 1B, 3B), Austin Walker (OF), Ty Dash (2B, OF), Nick Sullivan (3B), Travis Mansfield (OF, DH) and Nick Pfarner (C, 3B) are the Griffins’ six juniors.
The Griffins expected to start the season Wednesday against Pioneer after a strong month of spring practice.
“Defensively good, pitching good and bats have been getting better,” Joel Lux said of the team’s first month of practice. “I’ve got a couple guys that can really hit the ball well, but the rest of them are slowly coming, for sure. It definitely looks a lot better than it did three weeks ago.
“I think we’ll be good. Batting is not our strength, but we’re good defensively and our pitching is really good.”
Austin Lux, Wolf and Elkins have each taken on leadership roles in different ways.
“Wolf kind of controls everything on the field. He’s basically like having a coach out there,” Joel Lux said. “Austin is a very good pitcher and when he’s pitching, they pretty much know that he’s not going to get hit very much at all. And as far as Elkins, he’s loud. He’s very loud and constantly talking to everybody. They kind of all have their own little thing.”
After an 8-11 season last year concluding with a 2-1 loss at Depew, the Griffins expect to compete for their league title as they move to the ECIC Div. IV. Cleveland Hill, Tonawanda, Eden, Alden, Holland and Lackawanna are all in Div. IV this season.
“We should do pretty well in our league,” Lux said. “I definitely would like to win the league this year and they know that. Last year worked out really good, where we started off a little rough but by the time I think we won our last seven games, so I kind of like that, to get better the closer you get to the playoffs, make sure that’s when everything’s right. I think that the hitting will be there the longer the season goes.”
Clearly, hitting will be a bellwether for how far Lux’s senior-laden squad can advance.
“Whether the bats show up,” he said of what he’ll look for early on. “I know I’ve got a couple of our guys that can really mash baseballs, but the other guys, I know what they struggle at but I don’t want everyone else knowing.”