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Murray Journal

New region offers opportunities, challenges for Murray baseball team

Apr 05, 2024 10:56AM ● By Josh McFadden

Head coach Marce Wilson is excited for the change but said the competition won’t be easy. Notably, fellow Region 4 coaches picked the Spartans to finish first in region. (Photo courtesy Marce Wilson)

An interesting development occurred during the offseason of Utah high school sports. Class and region realignments occurred, moving teams throughout the state. Murray had some unique changes. 

In many sports, Murray moved from Class 5A’s Region 6 to Class 4A’s Region 10. However, the Murray baseball team is staying in 5A but shifting from Region 6 to Region 4. This season, the Spartans face region foes Granger, Cyprus, West Jordan, Hunter, Kearns and Taylorsville, all new faces. 

Head coach Marce Wilson is excited for the change but said the competition won’t be easy. Notably, fellow Region 4 coaches picked the Spartans to finish first in region. 

“It will not be easy as there are five or six pretty good pitchers in the region capable of winning on any given day,” Wilson said. 

Murray went 2-2 in its first four games heading into region action, with all the contests coming in the St. George Tournament. The team blanked Highland 14-0 to open the season March 14, followed by an 11-5 loss to Carbon the next day. Murray had two games on March 16, splitting the contests by beating Idaho Falls High School in Idaho 8-1 and falling in a close one to Pine View 4-3. 

“We played well,” Wilson said. “We had some good performances on the mound as well as at the plate. The more we play, the better this team will get.”

Wilson said the Spartans have some experienced, talented seniors who not only work hard and perform well on game day but lead by example. His large group of seniors have the right attitude too. Wilson is also impressed with how well his team has hit and with the job his pitchers have done in the early going. Of course, he admits, most opponents have similar strengths.

“The strength of this team is having competitive seniors who know how to win,” he said. “We’ve got some good pitching, defense and hitting. But so do most teams. If we’re going to finish near or at the top of our region, it’s going to be due to the experience and competitiveness of the seniors. There will be a few juniors sprinkled in the lineup as the season goes along. But we’ve got 10 seniors, and most of them will be mainstays in the starting lineup.”

As the season progresses, Wilson wants to see the team get better at not allowing other teams to have big innings. He also hopes the team can finish strong when the strike count is against them. He also is challenging the players to collectively improve the team’s at-bat percentage. He knows that this will lead to more runs and take pressure off the pitchers. 

Murray looks to have the players capable of producing a strong season. The Spartans went 18-9 last season and tied for third in Region 6 with a 12-6 mark. Murray lost in the Super Regionals in the 5A playoffs a year ago. 

The two things we’re going to have to do this season to have success is getting the bottom part of our hitting lineup on base, setting the table for our more experienced hitters at the top of our lineup to drive those runs in, as well as keep our pitching staff healthy,” Wilson said.

Wilson has the luxury that all coaches love to have on their teams: depth. Several players contribute—from the mound, at the plate and on the field. 

“On any given day, I have a handful of players who can really make a difference, whether pitching, defensively or hitting,” he said.

Spartans to watch out for this season include seniors Cooper Wilson (infielder), Kason Bleckert (infielder/pitcher), Jacob Reece (catcher), Easton Floyd (infielder), Marcelino Healy (infielder), and Diego Carrillo (pitcher). Wilson said he’s got some seniors who didn’t see much time in the field last season but who should see more action this year. He highlighted pitchers Chase Fleming and Jamison Vigil as well as fellow seniors Hadden King and Lance Straatsma.

The junior class comprises six players who will play big roles in region play and the postseason. These are Sam Brousseau, Degan Biltz, Bode Gladhart, Danny Blaylock, Ryan Lobach and Atticus Rogers.  

The stakes are high this season for Murray and its large senior class as it plays the role as favorites in Region 4. Eight Murray seniors have also already signed to play college ball (a school record), so, naturally, they are thinking ahead to those opportunities.

“No doubt the biggest challenge I’m going to have is keeping these seniors focused on the 2024 spring season in front of them, as opposed to spending too much time worrying about their college baseball careers, which begin in August,” Wilson said. “The reason I say that is because a record eight of our seniors have signed to play college baseball. As proud of them as I am, I worry a bit the focus on this final high school season may get sidetracked every now and then.”

Murray plays each Region 4 opponent a trio of times in three-game series. Region play opened against Cyprus March 25 and runs until May 10 when the Spartans conclude a series with Kearns. The 5A tournament follows. 

Wilson has loved coaching this group of seniors and has enjoyed watching them grow and improve. He’s grateful to guide the Murray program once again, this being his 14th season at the helm. He has amassed a 190-95 record. He also appreciates everything his staff gives to the team and for their commitment to the Spartans’ program. 

“I really enjoy my coaching staff as well as I enjoy coaching the talent from the dedication and sacrifice most of these players have put into baseball, even years prior to getting to high school,” he said. “Most of these players have been playing since 5 or 6 years old, with many of those years with high level travel teams throughout the valley. They are committed. It’s rare to see any of these players miss a practice or workout over the past four high school seasons. That includes summer baseball as well as fall workouts. I really enjoy coaching kids who are ‘all in’ when it comes to baseball, and this year I have a large group of them.” λ