Garnering nine wins over the past three seasons is a low point in the history of South Whidbey baseball.
A new coach, a new attitude and a new commitment to the team may throw a curve into the Cascade Conference rankings. South Whidbey is nowhere near the top and finished with only two wins last season, both of which came at the end of the season.
But first-year head coach Tom Fallon, the former varsity assistant, has taken over the team he once played for in the 1980s. His first order of business was building a foundation, brick by brick — literally. On the first day of practice, Fallon showed the Falcons a brick that said “Team first” on its face. He took it out to the field to demonstrate how the program will operate as long as he runs it. And the players believe Fallon.
“Our mindset this year is, ‘Team first,’” said senior Aaron Curfman, one of the team’s captains. “It’s our motto and mindset because we believe if there’s a team-first attitude, then we’re going to have success with the fundamentals and with the long run.”
Breaking from the program’s recent history as the conference punching bag is at the top of the priority list. It will only happen, team leaders said, if players commit to the team-first mentality. That means giving up playing time, rotating positions as the coaches need and trusting the coaches’ decisions.
“In the past, we would get frustrated to the point where it became, ‘What can I do?’” Curfman said. “Now the focus is to build a foundation and we can only rise from there.”
That’s a recipe for success, as far as the team captains are concerned.
“We have a lot better shot this year than we have in the past,” said senior Jack Lewis.
The seniors know the 2013 season will be a rebuilding one. That’s their sacrifice to the foundation of the program. They may not rack up home runs, strike outs or double plays, but they trust the coaches and acknowledge the program needs the young guys to develop for Falcon baseball to improve.
Offseason conditioning and Sunday open gyms whipped the team’s willing players into shape before they were even fitted for Falcon baseball caps with the dark blue “SW” embroidery.
“We’re already in mid-season shape,” Curfman said.
A 12-pitcher rotation will expose lots of players to varsity opponents and varsity pressure. Lewis, one of the Falcons’ leading pitchers last season, said he was confident in the other hurlers’ like CJ Sutfin, Colton Sterba, sophomores Trent Fallon and Mo Hamsa, and freshmen Ricky Muzzy and Charlie Patterson.
Last year, the Falcons’ offense fluttered and couldn’t string hits together to score runs. This season, with personnel changes and a team commitment to getting on base rather than long-ball glory, may see the reversal of those problems.
“We’re balancing out our strengths, but we definitely have some people who can hit the ball,” Curfman said.
“Home runs are accidents and ground balls are great for situational hitting.”
Games against Coupeville and King’s will be critical for South Whidbey’s 1A district playoff spot.