In the rough and tumble terrain of the Kalamazoo Valley Association, it’s not quite a breeze to jump from the bottom of the standings to the top in the course of a single season.
This is probably why Jeff Spencer, first-year coach of the Constantine baseball team, has set some modest goals in front of his Falcons, after finishing 2-16 in the conference last season.
“It’s a really tough league for us,” said Spencer, who formerly coached at Centreville during the 2010 and 2011 seasons. “We’ve been blown out the last couple years and there have just been some really good teams.
“Our goal right now is to compete in each game and just be a little more competitive. Personally, I hope we finish around .500 in the league. I don’t know if we’ll get there, but I think we have the kids we can do it with.”
The Falcons shed just two players from their roster last year, but they were significant losses: Tommy Reed and Nate Petoskey.
That doesn’t mean Spencer is facing a bare cupboard as the first-year skipper. In fact, he brings back a whole mess of letter winners from last year, stocking the squad with plenty of experience.
These returnees include last year’s leadoff hitter Nick West and ace pitcher Zack Sherman, who missed most of last season due to injury.
The Falcons are loaded with pitchers, but Spencer is still waiting to see who falls where in the rotation.
“(Sherman) right now is by far and away our best pitcher,” Spencer said.
“We have probably two, three or four kids competing for No. 2.
“When I was at Centreville, we had a solid No. 1 and No. 2. When we would head into our league double-headers, I knew who would start the first game and who would start the second. Right now, I know who would start in the first, but we’re still waiting on that solid second pitcher.”
Spencer said that the Falcons held their own last year at the plate, but their defense left something to be desired. That is a focus for this group and one that should hopefully let Constantine stick around in more games.
“We’re working a lot on defense,” Spencer said. “Our pitchers threw well last year and put the ball in play, but we really couldn’t do anything with it when we got it. We hit the ball pretty well, I thought, it’s just hard to win when you have to score 20 runs.”