The new baseball coaches at Sparta and Spokane are already familiar names at area ball diamonds.
Sparta has re-hired Michael Willis, while Spokane has welcomed back Ozark grad Justin Sundlie.
Willis coached the Trojans for eight years from 2008-2015, before resigning. Upon coaching Sparta’s middle school team earlier this year, he felt the urge to return to coaching.
“I was ready to come back and that made me want to coach that much more,” said Willis, a 1991 Sparta grad who was also an assistant for the Trojans for five years. “It was a tough decision to step down four years ago, anyway. I missed it.”
Willis said the middle school team he coached could produce six or seven players who make an immediate impact for Sparta this fall.
“I think they’re going to be pretty good,” Willis said. “But at the same time they’re going to be freshmen playing against sophomores, juniors and seniors.”
Sparta’s glory years included a state championship in 2003 and another Final Four berth in 2004. The 2013 Trojans were 29-7.
Willis is also boys basketball coach Larry Brown's assistant.
Sundlie most recently had been the pitching coach at Lubbock Christian College in Lubbock, Texas. He was looking to return home when the Spokane job came open.
“We’ve had a lot of baseball coaches the last several years,” athletics director Kyle Johnson said. “It would be nice if we can get someone to stay for a few years. I think this might be just the guy to do it.”
Sundlie was a standout at Ozark in the early 200s and an NAIA All-American catcher at Lubbock Christian. He coached high school ball at Valley Mills, Texas, and Abernathy, Texas.
Justin’s brother, Tod Sundlie, is Ozark’s head wrestling coach and an assistant baseball coach.