Most of the names are the same, but the Horizon Christian baseball team also has a fair dose of unfamiliarity this season.
Four freshmen join three seniors, four juniors and a sophomore to make up the 2003 roster, and both the players and the coaches are optimistic.
“Almost everyone from last year is back, which is good,” said senior pitcher/utility player John Winters. “We have a strong group of seniors and some good young players who want to show what they can do.”
Chief among them are ninth-graders Jon Strickland and Colin Swick. Both players saw their first varsity action on Monday in an 11-2 loss to Portland Lutheran, and pleased coach Jim Brown.
“Some of the new kids are showing signs that they can help us,” he said. “Jon and Colin are showing some versatility, and once they get a few games under their belt, we’ll be looking for them to contribute.”
Josh Taylor and Joel Winters are the Hawks’ other two freshmen, who also took their first cuts in Monday’s game.
“We’re trying to find a good complement from our young kids and get better play from our experienced kids,” Brown said. “We’ll need both if we’re going to be competitive.”
The Hawks finished the 2002 season with just one league victory, and hope to surpass that this year with a solid combination of pitching and power hitting.
Winters and fellow senior Sheldon Diers represent the power in both the lineup and the rotation, and are also the team’s vocal leaders, along with sophomore pitcher/outfielder Brian Stenberg and junior shortstop Cheyne Swick.
“We have a few holes, but there are some good freshmen coming up,” said Swick. “We will need to improve our outfield defense and our hitting, but the biggest thing will be to play smart.”
Joining Swick in the infield this season will be junior returning starter Aaron Griffin at catcher, senior Paul Brown at second base, Strickland, Winters or Diers at first base, and junior Neal Regentin at third base.
The outfield will consist of Stenberg in center, and two of the team’s three remaining freshmen in left or right field. The Hawks also hope to have junior Michael Stenberg back in the mix before the end of the season.
Horizon continues its busy first week this afternoon with a home game against Portland Christian. The Hawks will then host Country Christian on Thursday and Colton on Friday before a 10-day respite for Spring Break.
The conference season is set to begin April 22 at home versus Wahtonka.