Yellow Jackets finish above .500 for season

By Bruce Bentley • Last Updated 10:10 am on Friday, July 06, 2012

Greenville’s Travis Groom delivers a pitch against Lakeview this season. The Yellow Jackets finished the season 14-13 overall.

GREENVILLE — The Greenville Yellow Jackets baseball team finished about the .500 record mark for just the second time since 1994.

They did so without one senior on their team and a mixture of talented sophomores and juniors. In addition to the experience gained this year the Yellow Jackets junior varsity had a solid season (22-5), as well.

Greenville finished the year 14-13. The other winning season since 1994 came in 2003.

“We showed at times we were a pretty solid team,” Greenville coach Mike Rasmussen. “We beat some pretty good teams and we were really close in a couple of other games. We were competitive with some teams that we haven’t been in the past.”

The season included a win over Division 2 state champion Grand Rapids Christian. It was Christian’s first loss of the season at the time. They finished the year 36-5.

“We lost four games by one run and two games by two runs,” Rasmussen said. “There were six games we were right there with them. All of a sudden we turn 14-13 into a 20 win season. Being as young as were we showed we had the ability.”

As for improving, Rasmussen said it’s a matter of tweaking some things.

“I told they guys we have talent. We just have to figure out some of the finer things of competing and playing at this level against this type of competition,” he said. “I think we have a good understanding of what it takes to be successful. And when you return your entire roster there is definitely something to look forward to next year.”

The Yellow Jackets were led by O-K White All-conference performer Parker Syrjala. Syrjala and both Tyler Orr and Tre Nelson earned All-district honors.

Syrjala hit a school record .494 this year. Orr, a sophomore, and Nelson, a junior, both hit above .400 for the season. Jacob Crittenden, Brad Gilbert and Stephen Oliver all hit over .300.

They will return their top three pitchers next year as well with Syrjala, Orr and Travis Groom.

“Our top guys played as well in conference play as they did in nonconference play,” Rasmussen said.

This was the first season in which high school hitters had to use a BBCOR bat, which in effect took some of the life out of the bats. Rasmussen said that will change the style of high school baseball back to a “small ball” style and one he feels his team will have to do to be successful.

“It will be a game that focuses on pitching and defense,” he said. “Next year we need to add some depth and quality arms. We will play a similar type of schedule with not much rest.

“You can never have too much pitching and we have to continue to improve defensively,” he added.

The Yellow Jackets switch conferences next year and will compete against Cedar Springs, Northview, West Catholic, Forest Hills Northern and Forest Hills Eastern.

“Both the Forest Hills teams are really solid. They did have some really good individual seniors this year, but I don’t know what that means for next year,” Rasmussen said. “West Catholic is good at everything. The league will still be really competitive. We will still have to improve.”

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