A quick history lesson.
Since 1991, the West Springfield High School baseball program owns three state championships — more than any other AAA school during that span — and has amassed five district and five Northern Region tournament titles.
They've produced a host of ballplayers who eventually earned a paycheck to play — including pitcher Joe Saunders of the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Using a crop of talent headed by dominant right-hander Bobby Wahl, the Spartans went a combined 47-9 between 2009 and 2010, filling out the trophy case with a pair of regional crowns and the 2010 state championship.
West Springfield "slumped" to just 15 wins in 2011 and an early regional exit. In 2012, however, the hits just keep on coming for the school on Rolling Road.
"The district was tough last year and we lost to some good teams," said Jason Olms, a Spartan alumnus in his first year as head coach after seven as an assistant. "So I don't think it's a matter of us being down last year."
In one of the region's more challenging districts, Olms has guided a senior-laden team to the inside track on a second-place finish.
One difference from this year to last, Olms points out, is the Spartans' aptitude for winning by narrow margins — something he attributes to upperclassman leadership.
"We lost a couple close games that we've been able to find a way to win this year," Olms said. "That's a testament to our seniors. They go out, play hard, very business-like attitude. They set the tone for the underclassman, show them how it's done."
Nine of the Spartans' 22 players are seniors, including four-fifths of the starting infield. Several seniors are taking advantage of being starters for the first time.
"I've coached a lot of these guys since they were 13," Olms said. "They've always been a group that just wants to play ball. They have level heads on their shoulders. I haven't really had to get on them too much."
For Olms, the tradition of baseball success at West Springfield (10-6, 8-3 Patriot) is gratifying.
"My [older] brother [Chad] pitched on the í91 team so I'd go watch his team play. When I was playing, we made the state tournament but never won it," Olms said. "So a couple years ago when we finally got it done, it was an unbelievable experience."
With three regular season games remaining, Olms is looking toward the impending postseason and the chance to add another feather to the Spartans' baseball cap.
"Growing up in this area, it was always about West Springfield baseball. I'm honored to be a part of it. I couldn't have dreamed it up any better,Ē he said.