For most teams, a 14-15 record wouldn’t be a dream season.
But most teams haven’t lived through numerous nightmare seasons like Clark has.
The Chargers (14-15) finished fourth in the Division I-A Sunset League to earn a berth in the Southern Region tournament, and will make their first postseason appearance since 2001 when they travel to Boulder City (21-7) at 3:30 p.m. Tuesday. The Division I Sunrise and Sunset Region tournaments also begin Tuesday at host sites.
“The kids walk through the hallways with pride now,” second-year Clark coach Brian Gregorich said. “It used to be kind of you’d need witness protection if you were on the baseball team. But now the kids have pride in their program. It’s pretty cool.”
Clark, which was 7-7 in the Sunset League, hadn’t won more than five games since 2008, but it didn’t take the Chargers long to surpass that mark this season. Clark was a combined 17-93 in the six seasons before Gregorich took over, and went 5-12 last season.
“It feels amazing,” said senior catcher Stefan McLin, who watched older brother, Shane, suffer through some dismal seasons before he got to high school. “I’ve been watching Clark baseball for eight years, been a part of it for four. It’s great seeing the school go somewhere with baseball, somewhere it hasn’t been in 15 years. It feels really great to be a part of that team.”
McLin and his teammates credit Gregorich and his assistants with turning things around. Clark had eight coaches in the 10 seasons before Gregorich took over. He was McLin’s third coach in three years.
“It was difficult and it felt like we weren’t getting the care that this team needed,” McLin said of the constant coaching changes. “And it’s refreshing having someone like coach Gregorich come out on the field and give us that time and dedication. It’s true love for the team.”
Junior left fielder Matthew Thompson echoed those sentiments. “This coaching staff has changed the program more than I can explain,” he said. “The coaches’ heart is in it. They love the team. They just do so much for us, and that just hasn’t been there in the past.”
Gregorich said the team knows the staff is committed to the program, and the players, in turn, responded with their own commitment.
“They want to know that they’ve got someone who’s going to be there for them and it won’t just be a revolving door,” Gregorich said. “So that’s a big thing with these guys. And they know that they’ve got to get to the standards that we’re setting as a coaching staff, because, guess what, we’re going to be here next year, too.”
Gregorich said one of the main changes for the team is just getting more experience. Clark played only 13 games in each of the two years before Gregorich arrived, but more than doubled that this season. The program also had two American Legion teams last summer, allowing the players to get even more experience.
“These guys all love baseball, but they didn’t have as much experience as a lot of schools around, because they hadn’t necessarily been playing a full schedule,” Gregorich said. “We actually had two teams playing summer league from Clark, which is a big deal. That momentum from summer just carried on, and we just know how to play baseball a little better.”
Now the Chargers hope to do more than just make the playoffs.
“Our goal was to get here, but now that we’re here, no one wants to stop,” Thompson said. “Everyone has a chip on their shoulder, and we want to do damage this year in the postseason.”
Contact prep sports editor Damon Seiters at 702-380-4587 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @DamonSeiters