Banks faded down the stretch last year, but hopes remain high for success in 2011

The 2011 Banks baseball team is putting a lot of pressure on itself, both off and on the field this season. Pressure to improve. Pressure to execute.

And while some consider pressure a bad thing, the Braves are intent on using it as a motivator to try and improve on last season's 7-16 record, highlighted by a 10-game losing streak to finish the year.

'We learned that you have to work hard every day,' Banks head coach Jerimy Kelley said. 'We have to throw strikes and put the ball in play in order for us to be successful. We want to put pressure on the defense.

'The players that we have returning are good leaders, and have really been pushing the new players to work hard every practice. We also have a lot of team speed, and will use that to help us be successful.'

The Braves return nine lettermen from last year's squad, highlighted by sophomore shortstop Graysen Partain, who was an honorable mention All-Cowapa League selection in 2010.

'He has set some lofty goals for himself, and our team,' Kelley said. 'And [he] has been working hard to achieve them. He does a great job of pushing his teammates to get better every day.'

Partain will be joined by senior first baseman Garret Soper as leaders on a team that includes only one other senior, pitcher Jayson Bossert.

'[Soper] has worked really hard the last two years recovering from a major injury,' Kelley said. 'He is finally healthy, and confident, and I look for him to lead our team. He had a great summer last year, and we hope for that to continue into this spring.'

Sophomore Eric Summerfeld will start at second base, while junior Devin Wyckoff and sophomore J.C. Previtera will play third. Juniors Austin Soper and Coty Olivares and freshman Riley Philippi will also see time in the infield this season.

The outfield will be patrolled by Philippi, sophomore Zach Olson, Olivares and fellow juniors Devin Brown, Keith Spiering, and Jeremy Brown.

An area of improvement for the Braves will be on the mound. Previtera will be expected to lead a staff that struggled late in the year and surrendered the most runs in the Cowapa League.

'He has big shoes to fill but I believe he is capable,' Kelley said. 'He threw some as a freshman for us last year and did a great job. He is learning and getting better every day, and I expect that to continue throughout the season.'

Joining him on the mound will be Bossertt, Wyckoff, Spiering and Phililppi. Juniors Shea Rue and Devin Brown will handle the catching duties.

The entire Braves team will have to make up for the loss of their two departed seniors, all-league designated hitter Michael Nowak and infielder Chris Shaw, which only adds more pressure to the squad's young roster. But again, Kelley sees the positives for 2011.

'We, as a team, expect to get better every day,' Kelley said. 'We are a very young team, but I expect that we will be very competitive in our league.'

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