By BEN MCCARTY
News staff writer
March 17, 2007
Spring is slowly creeping into the air, and with it, confidence is creeping into the Hood River Valley High School baseball team.
The team opened its season with a 10-8 win over former Intermountain League rival Madras on Tuesday, rallying from an early deficit to get the victory.
The win is the first of many that first-year Head Coach Chris Albertson, “Albie” to his team, hopes to record during his time in Hood River.
“Hood River is a great place and I hope to be here awhile,” Albertson said, as the team went through practice on Wednesday. “This program need consistency and stability and it will be just fine. I’m looking to bring that to the program.”
Albertson emphasizes having his players improve every time they are on the field, whether it be during practice or a game.
To that end he has them working on fundamentals, such as bunt defense, learning signs and how to be effective base runners.
For his players, it is a strategy they would like to see pay off.
“He pushes us hard but he’s also easygoing,” senior Robbie Kloster said.
Kloster would like to see the team make the playoffs this season and continue to demonstrate the intensity that he has seen in practice and during the Madras game.
“They’re more focused and a lot more settled down,” he said of his teammates. “They know what to do.”
If the Eagles are going to make a run at one of the Mount Hood Conference’s playoff berths and improve off of last season’s 8-17 record and last-place finish in the IMC, several elements are going to have to fall into place.
Albertson does not have anyone established as his No. 1 starting pitcher yet, and knows that players are going to have to step up and fill the holes the team has in its pitching staff.
“I don’t know who is going to step up yet,” he said. “We still need a lot to look at.”
Offensively the bats of Elliott Sherrell and Thomas Nickel will lead the team, while Shay Huskey at shortstop and Chase Munos in center field will be the defensive stalwarts for the team.
Albertson describes Huskey as a “vacuum” in the infield and has been impressed by the feel that Munos has for the outfield so far this year.
Munos knows that the Eagles are going to have develop their pitching, but is confident that the team is well-built all around.
“Everyone has grown up from last year,” he said. “We need pitching and then we’ll be solid.”
A solid pitching staff is not the only thing Albertson would like to see installed this season.
He is currently working to get the team a new scoreboard, to replace the current non-functioning model.
Currently, several thousand dollars have been raised toward the new scoreboard, but more is needed to cover the cost.
“We are looking for someone or multiple people to help out,” he said.
Albertson was an assistant coach at Barlow the last four years, and knows the layout of the teams in the Mount Hood Conference well.
He thinks that the Eagles have as good a chance at anyone to contend for a playoff spot. The Central Catholic Rams took the league title last year with a 20-7 overall record, but 10 conference wins could be enough to get a playoff spot. The Eagles can at least take heart in knowing than they should fare better than Parkrose, the team they replace in the conference, which finished last season winless.
Regardless of how things shake out at the end of the season, the Eagles are feeling confident, stable and pumped up to take on this season’s challenges as the year gets underway.
“We have a lot of potential,” Albertson said. “We can be as good as these guys want to be.”