Eagles hope to strong arm MHC

Baseball season preview

HRV baseball coach Gerry Flink and his players couldn’t be more ready to take to the field in 2002.

The Eagles — a team that managed to survive an agonizing 0-16 league run last year — have something to prove. Not just to themselves, but to the school, the community and the rest of the Mt. Hood Conference.

“I don’t know yet what a successful year for us will be,” said the first-year head coach. “We’re going to be picked in the bottom three, but that may play to our advantage. I know the talent is there and we match up well against the middle of the league.

“By no means will it be an easy league for us, but I think we’re going to surprise some teams,” he said.

Flink, the former JV coach who took over the head-coaching duties last summer, explained that while the Eagles had a difficult regular season in the American Legion summer league, they finished the season on a high note by winning three games in the playoffs.

“Going 0-16 last season wasn’t indicative of the kind of team we have,” he said. “There were a lot of one- and two-run losses that could have easily gone the other way. A hit here, an error there realistically could have cost us six or seven wins.”

To win those close games this year, Flink said the Eagles will rely heavily upon their starting pitching staff to carry the load.

Junior John Winnett and sophomore Heath Goin will join senior Zack Lucas to make up the Big Three, while juniors Jarrod Fogle and Ryan Pratt, and seniors Jon Wall and Danny Gilkerson eat up innings along the way.

“Our success this year will depend a lot on our young pitchers,” Flink said. “But if Heath and John pitch the way I know they’re capable, we should compete most games.”

Goin and Winnett will share time at first base, with either player capable of filling the designated hitter role as well. Rounding out the starting infield will be Lucas at third, Fogle and Wall at second, and Gilkerson at shortstop.

Even as the team begins its preseason games this week, the starting catcher position is still very much up in the air. Flink said that senior Isidro Bello, junior Tony Hull and sophomore Cam Lucas all have an equal shot of playing backstop this season.

In the outfield, the team will look for production from seniors James Maher, Chris Wherry, Cole Billings and Lorin Herman, who will also compete for time at first base. Pratt and sophomore Jeremy Belcher may also be asked to step in from time to time.

“A lot of it is going to depend on who’s hitting,” Flink said. “We have a lot of strong bats in the outfield, so the guys are going to have to perform to earn time.”

Flink and the Eagles have plenty of work ahead of them this season, but as long as they stay together, good things are going to happen.

“Obviously, making the playoffs would be huge, but we’re going to take it one game at a time,” he said.

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