No. 6 Massillon Jackson Defining Themselves with Hustle



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By Ethan Day

PBR Staff Writer

Massillon Jackson defining themselves with hustle

At the beginning of the 2014 season, Massillon Jackson coach Bill Gamble asked his team how they wanted their program to be defined. What did they want their identity to be?

Their answer? They want to be dirty.

But not the foul play kind of dirty — the grass-stained, muck-covered kind.

“We want to show that we’re the dirtiest team on the field by using our uniforms,” Gamble said. “We want to be diving around. We want to be taking extra bases, laying out in the gaps, you know, those types of things.” 

Gamble, now in his fourth season holding the reins at Massillon Jackson, said he feels confident with the current group because he’s developed a strong relationship with his players. He trusts that his squad will respond well to any adversity they might encounter throughout the season.

The 2014 edition of the Polar Bears demonstrates a great approach to the game, according to Gamble.

“Collectively, they have a great work ethic,” he said. “They truly love being around each other. You see guys who will fight for each other. They’re willing to sacrifice what they need to sacrifice for the team. I see a lot of that.”

Jackson returns seven starters and 13 lettermen from last year. They will depend on their deep pitching staffturner and veteran leadership to navigate them through the trials of the season.

The trio of senior southpaws, Tim Turner (George Mason University), Sam Williams (Eastern Kentucky University) and Ryan Gusbar (Ashland University) head the rotation. Senior A.J. Kloehn, a Lafayette College commit, is back as their battery mate.

Four-year starter and outfielder Jake Miller paces the offense.  

Also playing key roles this season are seniors Kyle Mottice (shortstop), Seth Velluci (catcher), Jake Sima (catcher/third base), Mike McCann (right-handed pitcher/ second baseman), Mitch Aman (outfielder) and Brennan Dingler (infielder), juniors Brent Solinger (right-hander pitcher) and Jacob Kempt (infielder/outfielder) and sophomores Sam Miller (right-handed pitcher/infield) and Jake Pallotta (right-handed pitcher/infield).

After dropping their opener against Walsh Jesuit 4-2, the Polar Bears have rebounded by notching four straight victories to go to 4-1 (4-0) on the young season. They’ve outscored their opponents 33-18, with nearly half of those runs coming in a 16-6 thrashing of Hoover in their most recent outing on April 10.

Gamble said he’s been impressed with the team’s base running in the limited amount of opportunities they’ve had. However, he believes his players are a little rusty on the defensive side of the ball.

“(We need to work on) execution, defense, just getting a lot more touches on the dirt, those types of things,”williams Gamble said. “Putting ourselves in baseball situations. There are things you can’t coach on a gym floor. With
more reps I think we’re going to do a lot better.”

Playing in the Federal League is never an easy task and Gamble is well aware of that.

“The Federal League is a grind like a lot of the top conferences around the state. Every week we have to bring it,” he said.

Jackson’s out-of-conference schedule is just as challenging. They’re slated to square-off with the likes of St. Edward, St. Ignatius, Tallmadge and Homan in the coming weeks.

The quality of competition that Jackson faces is something that Gamble takes a lot of pride in.

“We want to continue those great rivalries we have in Stark County and we want to expand into northeast and central Ohio when we get those opportunities,” he said. “I think the schedule speaks for itself. We like to challenge ourselves.”

Gamble has high expectations for his squad and expects them to rise to any challenge they’re presented with. Right now, the challenge is staying undefeated in conference play.

“Right now our goals are more locked in to Federal League play and that’s our No. 1 option right now because that’s all we can control,” Gamble said. “Once the opportunity arrives, we’re hoping to play really good baseball and expect to play good baseball going into around tournament play.”