SALEM, Va. - "Chasing Greatness" has been the motto for the Salem Spartans all season long.
"This year, they're a little older and a little wiser, and I think they know what can happen," said head coach Wes McMillian.
It's only fitting for a program that broke a 40-year championship drought by winning the Class 4A title a season ago. That feat has been motivation for the Spartans in 2019 -- a team that returned seven starters who now feature experience mixed with a plethora of hitting and pitching prowess.
"We're trying to do as many things as we can to duplicate last year. We come out to practice with everyone dressed the same, and everybody is ready to go," said pitcher and captain Zian Honaker.
Salem averages a team ERA of 2.57 and has eight players batting over .300, including Virginia Tech commit Parker Stallard, who's leads at .482.
"We're a pretty diverse group, and I think it just adds to the whole dynamic. I think that's been the biggest thing that has helped us so far," said Stallard.
The Spartans will open regional play with a record of 16-4, which is nearly identical to last year. They say the competition level in the Roanoke Valley has improved, which in turn has given them the needed edge as they try to make another postseason run.
"As you go up the line up north, those teams have top-notch pitchers, and it really helps that we've been facing that all year. We've faced pretty good pitching this year," McMillian said.
Though complacency was an issue to start the season, the Spartans feel they are peaking at the right time and are determined to repeat as champions and add to the jewelry box.
"I think they're excited. They haven't talked about it a whole lot, but they're hungry, and they want it again," McMillian said.
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