Spartans look to solidify around stars Santiago, Lunde

March 11, 2014

By Neil Pierson

Chris Tamminen has a lot of questions to answer heading into the 2014 baseball season, but he’s got at least two known quantities to work with.

The Skyline High School coach expects big things from ace pitcher Drew Lunde, a senior lefthander who has committed to play at Washington State. Offensively, Tamminen isn’t sure what his batting order will look like, except for the fact senior third baseman Jason Santiago will hit third and be expected to drive in plenty of runs.

Lunde will need to be good this year after Skyline lost three workhorses to graduation – Corbin Powers, Arthur Stromquist and Jacob Gleichman combined to throw about two-thirds of the innings for the Spartans in 2013.

“Hopefully we can have some guys step up, we can have a couple guys surprise us on the mound a little bit and help us out,” Tamminen said. “We’ve got to be able to throw strikes and make guys put the ball in play, and I think defensively we’ll be OK.”

The pitching staff will revolve around Lunde, who finished 2013 with a 3-3 record, a 1.73 ERA and 41 strikeouts in 32 1/3 innings.

But there are others arms with untapped potential – Tammimen singles out juniors Kyle Gruber, Sam Lawrence and Hugh Smith as pitchers who’ll have a chance to prove themselves.

Santiago caught a bad break before tryouts and sprained his ankle. He was hobbling around the field on crutches last week, but thinks he’ll be ready to play in a couple weeks.

“It’s a bummer – I mean, no one wants to start a season off like that,” Santiago said. “But it only makes me stronger in the end because it’s complete mental strength that I’m building up.”

When Lunde isn’t pitching, he’ll likely play first base. Santiago returns at third, with senior Diego Graterol returning at second, and senior Scott Cohen at catcher. The only new infield addition figures to be sophomore Danny Sinatro, who will replace his brother, Matt, now a collegiate player for San Francisco.

Three seniors – Brad Hoss, Jake Kargl and Cole Blackburn – will anchor the outfield group.

Blackburn said expectations are high at Skyline, which finished 17-7 overall last season and won the Class 4A KingCo Conference Crown Division title at 13-2.

“We’ve got some big bats in the lineup,” Blackburn said. “I think the meat of our lineup is still there, but we’re still looking for that leadoff hitter and a few guys to round out the bottom of the lineup, too.”

Santiago will likely be a key cog to the Spartans’ run-producing machine. He said he had a good offseason and met his goal toward becoming a better power hitter.

“To have a coach that trusts me to be in that three spot, and drive in some runs and get on base, it says a lot about what the coach thinks about me,” Santiago said. “And I just hope this year that I can provide, and just do my job as far as driving in runs and getting on base.”

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