This past weekend, the Boardman High School baseball team left chilly Ohio to play a tournament in Florida.
Head coach Joe Gabriel admitted as his team was traveling that he hopes the better climate means better baseball by his boys.
So far this season, his Spartans have stumbled to a 5-6 record.
"We've been very inconsistent and a lot of that has to do with the weather," Gabriel said. "We've pitched well for six games, but our hitting needs to catch up."
Indeed, Boardman's pitching played a huge role in its two victories. The Spartans stopped Massillon Washington, 7-2, March 27 thanks to a strong performance by pitcher Dylan Gurski. The sophomore starter picked up a win when he sailed through four innings of work without allowing a hit.
Fellow sophomore Travis Harvey came into the contest in the fifth to hold the lead the rest of the game.
Seniors Gavin Strines and Bobby Mackovick were the hitting stars for the Spartans against the much-heralded Tigers. Strines slammed a triple and a double and had three RBIs. Mackovick had two hits in the enormous game.
"It was a very nice win for us," Gabriel said.
On March 30, it was senior Nick Augustine who shined on the hill for the Spartans in a 3-0 win over Fitch. Augustine limited the powerful Falcons to just one hit in a complete game triumph. The Spartans didn't exactly smack the ball around the diamond either, but they didn't have to do a lot with the way Augustine was throwing.
Outfielder Luke Cardillo hit a two-run double in the fourth inning to break open the game for Boardman.
That shutout win at home helped the Spartans get some redemption from Fitch's 4-0 victory the day before in Austintown.
The Howland Tigers shut down Boardman April 3, 5-2, and then held Gabriel's club scoreless, 2-0, April 5.
Boardman's 2017 season started against South Range March 25 with the Raiders edging the Spartans, 4-3, in 10 innings.
Sloppy defense by the Spartans led to five errors and some unearned runs by the Raiders. During the game, the Spartans' pitchers figured the only way to get outs was by not allowing the Raiders' hitters to put the ball in play.
Boardman's pitchers fanned 12 South Range batters over the 10 frames. Down a run heading into the seventh inning, Boardman tied the game to force extra innings.
South Range pushed home a run in the home half of the 10th to pull out the thrilling opening day win. Dom Stilliana, Coleman Stauffer and Evan Knaus all had multiple hits for Boardman.
Gabriel is now betting that a few days in the Florida sun will shoot a little adrenaline into his kids' bodies and help them recover from the uneven start to this season.
"My hope is that we find a rhythm in Tampa," Gabriel said on the eve of the Tampa tournament. "It'll be a tough schedule, but I think it will help with continuity and timing for our guys. We can't wait to play in warm weather."
The Spartans defeated Bishop Timon of New York, 14-2, Sunday. The local boys then played IMG Academy of Florida twice Monday, losing both Game 1 and 2, 4-2 and 3-2, respectively.
The Spartans took on Canisius High of New York Tuesday and won, 11-1., and again Wednesday, winning 6-2.