Not many familiar faces jump out on the Hood River Valley baseball team’s roster this season. But that doesn’t mean the Eagles aren’t experienced.
Of the team’s five seniors, just two — Jarrod Fogle and Tony Hull — are varsity returnees. Of the team’s top four pitchers, again, only two — Fogle and junior Heath Goin — played on last year’s club.
A look around the Eagles’ starting infield will provide you with just one glimpse of a 2002 varsity player — Fogle at second base — while a glance at the outfield will produce just one familiar face: junior left fielder Kyle Maurer.
Everywhere else on the diamond is relatively new to second-year head coach Gerry Flink. But, despite all the new faces, Flink and the coaching staff are quietly confident in what they have.
“One of the biggest things we’ve noticed in the early season is that the kids are much more together with one another,” Flink said. “They like each other and they are all very supportive. Little things like that should make a big difference.”
Flink added that the best part about this year’s team is its versatility.
“We have tons of options this year,” he said. “Most of the kids play a lot of different positions and the lineup will be constantly changing.”
Flink explained that he doesn’t have a set nine players for his starting lineup. Instead, he will rely on a committee of 11 everyday players who should give the lineup a much-needed boost.
“The lineup is guaranteed to be different from day to day,” he said. “There will be days when someone that could start won’t start. But when they come in, we expect they will produce.”
One position that will shift on a game-by-game basis is catcher. Junior Cam Lucas will be sharing time with Hull, and according to Flink, both are “pretty even right now.”
Three of the remaining four infield positions will also be in constant flux because Fogle (2B), Goin (1B), Ryan Pratt (3B) and Jeremy Belcher (Util.) represent the Eagles’ pitching rotation.
Junior Pete Dills is also in the starting infield mix, and will likely share time at shortstop with Belcher, a junior who Flink regards as his “most versatile player.”
“Both Jeremy and Pete will fit into the lineup somewhere on any given day,” Flink said. “They both have good hands and good arms, and run well.”
Joining the infield rotation will be seniors Cody Wickwire and Mike Elias, who will each see time at first base when Goin is on the mound.
In the outfield, Maurer is the Eagles’ only returning starter. But they have junior Danny Newton, who played significant varsity time in center toward the end of 2002, as well as Hull to help fill the void.
All the pieces seem to be in place, but until the team actually plays the games, it’s difficult to know where they fit in their new league, the Intermountain Conference.
“The key is to have consistency in all areas,” Fogle said. “Pitching, defense and hitting all have to be there for us to get where we want to be.”
Both the players and the coaching staff agree that this year seems like a fresh start in almost every way.
“I can’t wait to see how we play together,” said Pratt. “It’s going to be a fun year, and we want to start a winning trend. We’re confident in what we have, but it’s hard to predict. You just have to play the games.”