Sports

Sandberg Has Good Reason For Optimism Saxons Open Season Against U-Hi

Eric Sandberg could recite the ins and outs of pitching and hitting following his sophomore year.

His junior year taught him something more substantial in the long run: how to be patient.

Sandberg, one of the best baseball players to pass through the Greater Spokane League, begins his third and final league season today, on his home field at Ferris.

He’s hoping that his senior season has more in common with 1996 than 1997.

GSL teams fed Sandberg a steady diet of out-of-the-strike-zone pitches last year, responding to his 10th-grade year, a triple-crown season of six home runs, 25 RBIs and a .519 batting average.

Sandberg occasionally received intentional walks no matter what kind of lead Ferris had. He still managed a solid season, with five homers and 27 RBIs, but couldn’t shake the feeling that he had slipped a notch.

“It was pretty hard for me because I felt I had to live up to the expectations of the year before,” Sandberg said.

“I felt I had to carry the team, and I wanted to live up to my potential.”

Sandberg said the natural maturing process has left him with more of an understanding of, and tolerance for, such baseball strategies.

GSL rivals could frustrate Sandberg’s hitting game, but they had no tricks available when the left-hander took the mound. Sandberg (6-0) led the league with 75 strikeouts and a 0.74 earned-run average in 38 innings.

University defeated Sandberg in the district tournament’s winner-to-region game, but the southpaw probably shouldn’t have pitched. Sandberg had bruised his shoulder sliding into home plate two weeks prior to district, and hadn’t thrown in two weeks.

“I felt I owed it to my team because we were low,” Sandberg said. “I really don’t know if I was ready, but I don’t want to sound like a cop-out.”

As the ‘98 schedule worked out, U-Hi opens today against Ferris, with Sandberg on the mound. Both teams should be near the top of the standings through the league’s 18-game schedule.

“University, with its three senior pitchers, has the most depth in pitching,” said Saxons coach John Thacker.

But any pitching staff must contend with a Saxons lineup that includes all-league returners Brian Munhall, a catcher, and outfielders Joe Moll and Marques Mollett. Sandberg figures the guys hitting around him may add up to more quality pitches headed his way.

The GSL season is just part of Sandberg’s yearlong plunge into the game. Tournaments with various select and all-star teams have taken him to Seattle, San Diego, Chicago, Albuquerque, N.M., and Australia.

Sandberg, who carries a 3.6 grade-point average, has signed with baseball power Southern Cal. Florida, Alabama, Texas A&M; and Arizona State also courted the pitcher/first baseman.

“Southern Cal figures he can do both (pitch and first base), but if he were to sign a pro contract, they would move him quickly to the outfield,” Thacker said.

The amateur draft is in early June. Sandberg said he’d have to be drafted mighty high to turn down Southern Cal’s offer.

One recent day, Sandberg received calls from the Cleveland Indians, Colorado Rockies and Arizona Diamondbacks. Every majorleague team except Boston has contacted him.

Sandberg has talked to 1994 Ferris graduate Matt Sachse, another first baseman/pitcher in high school who was shifted to the outfield when he signed with the Seattle Mariners organization. Sachse was set to play college ball at Stanford until he received a hefty offer from Seattle.

“Mainly, we talk about pro ball,” Sandberg said.

For those who haven’t heard it before, Sandberg is no relation to the most notable baseball player Spokane has produced, North Central grad Ryne Sandberg.

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color photo

MEMO: These sidebars appeared with the story: SANDBERG’S NUMBERS 1997 Batting Ave. .404 HRs 5 RBIs 27 Pitching Record 6-0 ERA0 .74 Innings 38 Strikeouts 75 1996 Batting Average .519 HRs 6 RBIs 25 Pitching Record 4-1 ERA 2.52 Innings 41-2/3 Strikeouts 68

GSL BASEBALL Today’s openers: University at Ferris; Mead at Mt. Spokane; North Central at Gonzaga Prep; Rogers vs. Lewis and Clark at Hart Field; Central Valley at Shadle Park. Defending champion: Mead. Returning all-leaguers: First team - Ben Miller and Chad Adamson, CV; Brian Munhall, Eric Sandberg and Joe Moll, Ferris; Joe Chimienti and Brandon Muzatko, Mead. Second team - Marques Mollett, Ferris; Doug Adams, Kurtis Broderson and Garth Haskins, LC; Sam Hess, Mead; Taylor West, Rogers. New coaches: Brock Taylor replaces Dave Vaughn at Mead; Dave Whitehead leads first-year Mt. Spokane. Projected finish: Ferris, U-Hi, Mead, CV, LC, Shadle, G-Prep, NC, Rogers, Mt. Spokane.

These sidebars appeared with the story: SANDBERG’S NUMBERS 1997 Batting Ave. .404 HRs 5 RBIs 27 Pitching Record 6-0 ERA0 .74 Innings 38 Strikeouts 75 1996 Batting Average .519 HRs 6 RBIs 25 Pitching Record 4-1 ERA 2.52 Innings 41-2/3 Strikeouts 68

GSL BASEBALL Today’s openers: University at Ferris; Mead at Mt. Spokane; North Central at Gonzaga Prep; Rogers vs. Lewis and Clark at Hart Field; Central Valley at Shadle Park. Defending champion: Mead. Returning all-leaguers: First team - Ben Miller and Chad Adamson, CV; Brian Munhall, Eric Sandberg and Joe Moll, Ferris; Joe Chimienti and Brandon Muzatko, Mead. Second team - Marques Mollett, Ferris; Doug Adams, Kurtis Broderson and Garth Haskins, LC; Sam Hess, Mead; Taylor West, Rogers. New coaches: Brock Taylor replaces Dave Vaughn at Mead; Dave Whitehead leads first-year Mt. Spokane. Projected finish: Ferris, U-Hi, Mead, CV, LC, Shadle, G-Prep, NC, Rogers, Mt. Spokane.



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