Rudyard Begins New Era Under Smith
RUDYARD – Through its first 22 years of existence, the Rudyard baseball program had become synonymous with one name: Ron VanSloten.
VanSloten built the program from scratch in 1994, leading the Bulldogs to 444 wins, 12 district championships, six regional titles and a school-best 30 wins in 2015, before retiring at the conclusion of last season.
In steps former assistant coach Jim Smith.
Smith inherits a program that graduated 10 seniors from last year’s squad that became the third in school history to reach the Division 4 state semifinals (2007, 2012), losing to Centreville (2-1).
"We have a great nucleus and core of a team back this year,” Smith said. “We got a great core lineup, we got a couple decent pitchers coming up and also brought four freshmen up from the JV squad. We hope that they’re going to make some huge contributions this year.
“We just try to teach everybody the fundamentals and just knowing the game of baseball. And that’s huge because if you don’t do the little things right, you’re not going to do the big things right."
Despite having to replace two starting pitchers and a catcher, Smith is confident in his first team.
"It’s early in the season but I feel confident that, as long as we work hard, we’re going to be strong again this year,” he said “It’s going to be tough to get back to where we got last year, but we’re just going to work at it every game. Our goals are to get better all season long and try to be our best come start of districts. If we get through districts then we just work on regionals and work on it one game at a time."
Rudyard opens its season April 12 at Petoskey.