Champion aims to maintain its tradition of success | News, Sports, Jobs

Playing baseball for Champion carries a certain weight to it. Like the softball program, the baseball program has a longstanding tradition of success over the years.

Entering his third year at the helm of the program, Golden Flashes coach Andrew Barker has been adamant about maintaining that tradition.

According to Barker, this year’s group is a perfect representation of that.

“These guys understand the need for a sacrifice bunt, or stolen base, or being a pinch runner, those types of things. It’s tough to get kids to buy into that. They know this is what we need from you for this game,” Barker said. “They’re willing to do what they’ve got to do to make Champion baseball better instead of making themselves better. They’re in it for the team. They’re in it for the guys before them and the guys who are coming after him. They want to be part of this tradition.”

As always, it starts on the mound.

Senior Carson Fife, a three-year letterwinner, is going for his fourth this season. Fife is going to be a major focal point for Champion this season.

“He worked real hard during the offseason,” Barker said. “He’s a multi-sport athlete, so even during hoops he came down and hit and he’s been throwing throughout the winter. He’s going to be our leader.”

Also expected to see time in the rotation are junior Bradey Quinby, someone who Barker is very excited to see in action this year, and Dylan Howell, who will be utilized all over and is potentially an option at first base.

Shane Hixson is stepping into a role with big shoes, taking over behind the plate for Tyler Skaggs.

At second base primarily, but can play pretty much anywhere, junior Carter Boggs is a player that is likely going to have his number called in a variety of situations this season.

“He lettered last year. He plays mostly second base, but we move him around quite a bit,” Barker said. “He is a Swiss Army Knife for us. When we need him he can go and play and he does a nice job.”

Sophomore Zack Morris will be taking shortstop duties again this season. Morris hit nearly .400 last season as a freshman, was second-team all-league, and second on the team in stolen bases.

The biggest turnover comes in the outfield, where the Flashes bring in a completely fresh trio. Howell is one name that will see time in the outfield. Three freshmen, Carter Chapin, Konner Reed, and Mark Nolan, are expected to contribute in the outfield as well.

“Howell is one that has been playing for us since his freshman year. So experience is not lacking there. Even though we’re young, we’re not lacking in experience. … On paper, we look young, but we do have a lot of guys who have lettered and have got a lot of varsity experience”

Which is another source of excitement within the program. Despite the team’s relative youth, Champion arguably has one of the more experienced groups in the area. A lot of these guys aren’t set to graduate this year either.

“My wife tells me that all the time,” Barker said. “Because those kids have already lettered and they’re going to be there for two or three years, we’ve got that to look forward to. When you look on paper, and you see, one or two seniors you’re like, ‘Man, this is crazy,’ but in the end, none of them other than the freshmen, these guys coming back have already lettered. They’ve been there.

“They’ve seen high level baseball, they’ve been in the district semis. They know what it’s like to play day in and day out.”

With a schedule full of challenges, the Flashes are doing what they can to prepare for the postseason. Teams like Chagrin Falls, Poland, Struthers, and Lakeview await Champion this season.

After having their season ended by South Range two years in a row, getting ready for games like that is their goal. As long as they’re playing their best baseball by the end of the season, Barker is comfortable.

“Our goal is always going to be playing our best baseball at the end of the year,” Barker said. “It is difficult because when you look at our schedule, game one, we start off with LaBrae. The winner of those games is going to have a big stepping stone toward the league title, but towards the end of the year, we’ll be playing our best baseball and luckily we’ve done that the last couple of years.

“We just ran into a really good South Range team two years in a row, so if we’re playing our best baseball at the end of the year, we’ve saved our arms if we kept healthy, then that’s what we’re really looking forward to. The games at the beginning of April are rough but it’s the ones that make you ready to play your best baseball (come the postseason).”

Champion opens its season up with a two-game series against LaBrae that starts Monday.

Have an interesting story? Contact Brian Yauger by email at Follow him on X, formerly Twitter, @_brianyauger.

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