‘Sites’ seeing

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, May 16, 2000

Jon Sites was just planning to do what he always does, but the call came for him to do something that came difficult for him.

Tuesday, May 16, 2000

Jon Sites was just planning to do what he always does, but the call came for him to do something that came difficult for him. He was asked to step into the spotlight.

Email newsletter signup

As a starting halfback for the Ironton Fighting Tigers football team, Sites was called upon time after time to block for fullback Michael Henry and halfback Jason Harmon. Sites must have been doing something right because both runners eclipsed 1,000 yards rushing for the season.

The blocking of Sites was never more evident in the playoffs when Ironton reached the state championship game. And his absence was never more noticeable than when he was hurt in the fourth quarter and Ironton ended up on the short end of a 16-14 score.

But that was football. Now, it’s baseball season and Sites is the only returning starter from last year’s team that went 17-10 and reached the district semifinals.

Being the lone veteran, Sites was asked to step up and become the main man in the lineup. It was quite an adjustment for the senior catcher.

"I’ve never been selfish when it comes to playing. It doesn’t matter to me what I do. I want to be remembered as a team player. It was always team first to me," said Sites.

Even though Sites has been uncomfortable with his front-and-center role, he has flourished. He leads the team with a .403 batting average, a home run, 23 runs batted in, six doubles, two triples, and six stolen bases in as many attempts.

Last season, Sites hit .333 with a home run and eight RBI while stealing five bases in five tries. The promotion in the batting order along with his role took its toll at first.

"It’s definitely had an effect on me. I was pressing at the plate trying to make something happen," said Sites. "But it got better as the year went along. We’ve come together, especially the last two games. We came out and played solid ball all the way around."

The last two games were sectional tournament wins over Oak Hill (12-6) and South Webster (6-2). Both teams were favored.

But that’s nothing new this season. Ironton’s 13-8 record has been quite a surprise, especially after the past two seasons in which the Fighting Tigers were 21-6 and 17-10. In 1998, Ironton went to the state tournament before losing 4-1 in the title game to Jonathan Alter.

Ironton coach Mark Lewis said a lot of Ironton’s success this season can be attributed to Sites.

"We didn’t know what we had this year with the exception of Jon," said Lewis. "Jon’s had a great year at the plate and behind it. He can do a lot of things for us, and he’s done everything we’ve asked of him and more."

Sites remembers his sophomore year well. He started in the state championship game as an outfielder and tripled in the sixth inning for Ironton’s first hit. He later scored on Dan Meehan’s triple for the Fighting Tigers lone run.

Now, the Ironton catcher would like nothing better than to duplicate his sophomore year. The sectional championship puts the Fighting Tigers in the Division III district semifinals Tuesday against No. 2 ranked Wheelersburg at McDermott.

"I would love to go back to the state," said Sites. "I remember that championship game. I was relaxed. I couldn’t do any worse than anyone. The pressure was off my shoulders.

"But I’ve had a lot of fun this year. Winning two games in the sectional was nice. No one expected us to be any good this year and we’ve turned some heads. We’ve done a lot better than I thought we would."

Not only did Sites not expect Ironton to do as well, but he figured as the lone returning starter that his numbers would drop instead of rise like they have this season.

"I figured I’d be pitched around. Taking (Dan Meehan’s) spot in the order was big shoes to fill," Sites said, referring to Meehan’s .458 average and 29 RBI.

Not only has Sites filled the shoes on offense, but he has shown leadership by encouraging other players and initiating cheers on the bench to stir the emotions of his teammates, something that is done by the Fighting Tiger fans in football.

"The crowds and atmosphere every day is more exciting and more hyped in football," said Sites. "It’s kind of harder to get motivated in baseball, so I see it as my role to get everyone going."

Getting everyone motivated is a team thing. But what else would you expect from Jon Sites.

It’s all he expects from himself.