Newark baseball coach J.R. Veliz and his players have been paying their dues.
Now they’re ready to take the next step and bring home a little hardware.
Veliz and the Norsemen posted a 60-43 mark from 2014-2017. Last year, though, the Norsemen slipped an injury and weather-riddled 3-13 season.
But a group of talented Norsemen who played on both of those clubs are returning this spring, bringing with them a desire to win.
“I’m pretty excited about this group,” said Veliz. “Obviously, we have big returners coming back who’ve been with me the last three years basically learning since they were freshman, and they’re ready to win. We’ve had some good seasons, though last season was a down one because of some injuries and weather canceling a lot of games.
"Those guys are going to be a big, big part of this team.”
The top letterwinners includes four quality senior leaders led by first baseman Brett Myre, who batted .364 with 17 runs scored and eight runs batted in while also striking out 16 batters in 12 2/3 innings pitched.
Also back are center fielder/pitcher Connor Swanson, who hit .341 with 10 runs and 12 RBIs; third baseman/pitcher Corey Jacobson, a .319 batter with seven runs and 13 RBIs; and shortstop/pitcher Jacob Slivka, who posted a .348 BA with 15 runs and four ribbies. Also back is former catcher/now left fielder Dylan Tuttle.
Newark's sophomores will have to adjust to the speed of the varsity game, but there is talent and versatility. Jared Slivka returns at second base, Ethan Jeffers should play right, and Dalton Reibel will back third when Jacobson pitches. Freshman Tegan Kruzer will take shortstop when Jacob Slivka takes the bump.
The emergence of freshman Lucas Pasakarnis, who has has looked “mighty, mighty good” in workouts so far, said the coach, has allowed Tuttle’s move to the outfield.
Jacobson, Swanson, Myre and the Slivkas lead a roster from which nearly everyone will see action on the mound.
“Everyone’s working hard,” Veliz said. “They wan to stay late, they wan to come early, they want more conditioning. They’re a special group with a desire to win.
"They want it, and they’ll do what they have to to get it. It’s all very cool.”