Don’t look back: New baseball era begins
FARMER’S KORNER – Good thing John Padjen doesn’t know what he’s missing. Padjen, the Summit High School baseball team’s new head coach, has never seen David Sustad’s fastball or Ryan Clift’s offensive consistency or Anje Sramek’s presence behind home plate.
Padjen can do nothing but look ahead, not back at the talent of seniors who, for various reasons, are not returning to the team this season.
But the players remember. And the loss of left-handed ace Sustad in particular will tax the remaining Summit pitchers.
“We could have used him. He was our number one starter,” said Ryan Norton, a four-year starter who will take over the role of mound workhorse this season.
The loss of catcher Sramek, who decided to transfer and play baseball for Centaurus in Lafayette, is less of a concern. Sramek may have been Summit’s most talented player, but the Tigers think they will be better of without his statistics-first mentality.
“Nobody’s thinking about college ball,” shortstop Casey Anderson said of this year’s team. “Nobody’s thinking about themselves. We’re all thinking about getting a win.”
Padjen has enough to consider as he becomes the second coach in Summit baseball history (Mark McDonald stepped down in the offseason after seven years at the helm) without dwelling on departed talent.
“All I’m looking at is who came out starting from day one and what we have,” said Padjen, an experienced coach who moved from the Chicago area last year. “We have a really good group of kids and five really strong seniors.”
The seniors, who were used to McDonald’s style, said Padjen has brought a strong commitment to conditioning and an attention to detail.
“Sometimes it’s good to get a new perspective on things,” Norton said. “And I think coach Padjen is going to bring good things to the program.
“The level has been (stepped up), and he’s making us all work as a team together, and if we don’t do something, we work out for it.”
Summit’s senior class will create an experienced Tiger infield. Norton will pitch and play third base, David Payne returns to second, and Anderson returns to shortstop. Jordy Lynch is slated for first base with strong competition from 6-foot-4 sophomore Garrison Green. Cody Schlunsen, another sophomore, will fill in at third base when Norton is on the mound.
“Our infield is rock solid,” Padjen said. “That is our strength.”
The Tigers are hoping for a player to step into the catcher’s role that was vacated by two-year starter Sramek. The preseason competition is between senior Cole Denckla, sophomore Sean Star and freshman Drew Arnesen.
Sophomore Dan Pringle is penciled in at center field, and juniors Justin George and Cory Olson will also see time in the outfield.
“I’m not worried about our outfield, because we have some pretty good athletes that we can put out there,” Padjen said. “I don’t see it being a weakness at all.”
Behind Norton, Summit will depend on Anderson, Lynch, George, Olson, Green, Schlunsen and Star for innings on the mound. With relievers likely needed for every game, pitching depth is a concern.
“The big question right now is developing that pitching depth,” Padjen said. “We’re going to use the next week and a half to establish our pitching staff.”
Summit’s batting order is set through the No. 3 spot with Anderson leading off, Payne batting second and Norton third. Power will likely come from Schlunsen. Summit will throw other sophomores up against varsity pitching and hope they respond well. The bats will be supplemented by an aggressive running game.
“We’re going to have to put the ball in play and take advantage of some of our speed,” Padjen said.
The Tigers went 6-12 last year in their final year in the Class 4A Metro League. They enter the tougher 4A Jeffco League this season.
“It’s going to be a struggle,” Anderson said. “But I think we’ve got enough talent that we could surprise some teams this year.”
The season starts Saturday when Summit travels to Colorado Academy for a 10 a.m. game.
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