The scouting report on Sayre's baseball team the past few years has focused on its young talent, and how the Spartans' future looked as bright as a well-lit diamond on a warm spring night.
Sayre came into this season again loaded with underclassmen, most notably a group of juniors who have been playing on the varsity level since they were seventh- and eighth-graders.
Again people talked about how the youthful Spartans would continue to improve under new coach Kevin Clary. But Aidan Elias, a junior outfielder/pitcher, is tired of looking ahead.
"For years we've heard we're a young team that's going to get older and develop," he said. "But, honestly, this is our time. We've developed already. It's our time to show what Sayre baseball's about."
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Junior pitcher/infielder Michael Flora agreed.
"There's no better time than now," he said.
Sayre started the season 6-0, including a victory over Simon Kenton, last year's state runner-up. The Spartans continued their solid play for the next month, running their record to 17-4, highlighted by a two-game sweep of 42nd District rival Bryan Station. (Sayre had lost 39 of its previous 40 games against Lexington public schools.)
Elias said beating the Defenders twice "kind of showed it's a new era for Sayre. We're here to compete every day. We're not here to be an easy win for anybody anymore."
After its second victory over Bryan Station, Sayre lost five games in a row, to Henry Clay (twice), Elizabethtown, Paul Laurence Dunbar and Lafayette.
"When you play a demanding schedule like we have, we knew there'd be times we'd struggle because of our lack of depth," Clary said. "But even though we lost those games, we showed we could compete."
Junior designated hitter Mason Stockham is confident Sayre will bounce back. "We need to get excited about it again. Once we do, we'll be winning again."
Clary guided Lexington Catholic to the 2009 state title and was at East Jessamine the past three years before succeeding longtime Sayre coach Scotty Sutton.
"I knew this was a good situation," Clary said. "Coach Sutton did a great job here, and he didn't leave the cupboard bare. There's a bunch of players with a lot of experience, and they had expectations to win."
Sayre returned two veteran pitchers in Flora and Elias, who've thrown well against high-profile opponents. The Spartans have gotten a lift from newcomer Marshall Neilson, a freshman left-hander. "He's been dynamic for us," Clary said.
Sayre's everyday lineup is stocked with experience, including catcher John Van Balen, the only senior on the roster. The veterans also include Christian Courtney (shortstop), Flora (third base), Mason Jasko (second base) and Elias (center field).
Garrett Young (left field), Josh Morgan (right field) and Sam Van Balen (first base) are up-and-coming sophomores.
Stockham and Christian Moore would have been experienced hands in the field, too, but both have had Tommy John surgery. Moore had surgery this week. Stockham went under the knife in December. He rehabbed quickly enough to DH this season.
Elias and Courtney, who bat 1-2 in the order and sport averages over .400, have led the offense.
Sayre's defense has been good most of the time.
"In high school baseball, if you dominate the routine play, you're going to win," Clary said. "In the games we've lost, we've kicked the ball around a little bit."
Elias put a positive spin on the Spartans' struggles against good competition.
"It gets us ready. It toughens us up for the district" tournament, he said. "It shows us what kind of baseball it's going to be like in the postseason. We've got to learn to grind and fight through tough games."
Flora has a better perspective on the ups and downs than when he was a seventh-grader pitching for Sayre.
"Probably back then I'd hit the panic button," he said. "But now I realize it's just a bump in the road. You just need to relax, take a deep breath and keep going."
Sayre will host the 42nd District tourney May 18 to 20. The Spartans hope to win their semifinal game and qualify for the 11th Region Tournament for the first time since 1997.