Confidence, mental toughness keys to Sprinkle’s big year


WHITE HALL — Winning the 5A state championship meant a lot to White Hall junior Daniel Sprinkle.

Getting to help his senior teammates end their careers on top made it even more special.

“I wanted to do it for our seniors,” Sprinkle said. “It meant a lot just to be able to help them win a ring. …

“To do that we had to stay mentally strong and it really showed out last couple games.”

With a lack of run support, Sprinkle had to show his mental toughness on the mound a lot during the year.

“That’s his attitude in football, too,” White Hall coach Skip Carr said. “You never see him overreact. By looking at him you can’t tell if he’s winning or losing, he’s focused the whole time. We didn’t have a good offense for much of the year, but we put in a lot of work and we knew it would pay off eventually.

“Daniel had a lot of confidence coming into the season with his three pitches.”

That confidence was apparent in the state championship game against Pulaski Academy.

In White Hall’s 3-1 win, Sprinkle solidified his case for The Commercial’s Pitcher of the Year honor allowing just an unearned run on three hits with eight strikeouts. He finished the year with a 7-3 record, a 1.39 ERA and 91 strikeouts in 65 1/3 innings.

Sprinkle had a solid regular season, but it was his role in White Hall’s Cinderella run in the 5A state tournament that helped separate him from the pack of several deserving pitchers.

In the state tournament, Sprinkle helped lead his team to three of their four wins. He threw a pair of complete games — in the first round of the state tournament against Little Rock Christian and in the championship game against Pulaski Academy — and picked up the save against Watson Chapel in the semifinals.

“It means a lot, an award like that,” Sprinkle said of the honor. “I worked hard, but my teammates pushed me through. Against Little Rock Christian we were down 3-0, and I really wasn’t pitching that well, but my teammates helped us come back.

“They just helped me through it.”

Sprinkle also credited Carr and the rest of the Bulldogs’ coaching staff for helping him work through the difficult stretches.

“Great coaching by those guys,” he said. “They always said to stay strong and just pitch your game. …

“I don’t think our coaching staff gets enough credit, because they probably deserve the most credit.”

Carr, while not taking credit for it, did say he was impressed with the progress Sprinkle made during the season.

“Early in the season, he was a hard-thrower,” Carr said. “Over the course of the season, he developed into a pitcher.

“Next year we hope to build on that, and just make him a more polished pitcher.”

As he continues to develop, Sprinkle will only become more desirable to college baseball coaches. It’s not a foregone conclusion that Sprinkle’s future lies with baseball, as college football coaches are looking at him to play tight end. Sprinkle said, “eight to 10 schools are right on the edge” of offering him for football, adding that Arkansas-Little Rock and Jackson State have offered him in baseball.

Looking ahead to his final high school season, Sprinkle agreed with his coach about wanting to become more polished as a pitcher, but also added a goal for himself and one for his senior class.

“I want to keep improving on my offspeed,” he said of his goals. “I also want to improve my hitting, so I can help my team out even when I’m not pitching.

“And, of course, get another ring.”