MORTON, Ill. (WMBD/WYZZ) — There’s an optimistic feeling around the Morton baseball program. Again.

The Potters can’t wait to play their first game and have been thinking about the start of this 2023 season for months.

“We were showing up two or three days a week at 6:30 a.m. and getting 100 percent attendance from your varsity,” Morton baseball coach Jesse Crawford said of his teams’ offseason workouts. “That’s when you know things are going well. Five or six years ago, that wasn’t the case.”

Morton won 30 games last season and returns all 30 pitching wins. The Potters have eight players who’ll be in their third year of varsity baseball.

And this experienced squad isn’t afraid to talk about the big goal of winning state.

“I would say we can win state, honestly. I’m not afraid of that,” said junior pitcher Tanner Spangler. “Last year we came up a little short but this year I think we’ll have a good chance at it.”

Spangler and Bradley University signee Tate Roley were eight-game winners last spring and will anchor the pitching staff this season.

“It’s a lot to think about this year but it’s definitely a thought in my mind,” Roley said of the goal to get to state. “It’s the only goal for every team so it’s not a stretch to think about it with the guys we’ve got.”

On its way to a third-place finish at state, Washington beat Morton in the sectional championship game a year ago. The Potters understand they may carry the burden of being the favorite this spring in the strong Mid-Illini Conference.

And that could put the team in line for a deep postseason run.

“We’re definitely excited. We feel like there’s a little target on our back,” said Crawford. “We know our league and our area is really good. We’ll be battle-tested by the postseason.”