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SPRING SPORTS PREVIEW: It's about pitching for Falcon baseball
Though he didn't know it at the time, Jake McCormack set the tone for his team on Tuesday. That tone is one of toughness.
The South Whidbey High School baseball player smashed into a chain link fence Tuesday, breaking his nose, slicing his lip and bloodying his T-shirt. But on Wednesday, he was back on the field, with a bandage on his nose and the same T-shirt he had on the day before.
"I forgot to bring another one," he said before running on the field to throw the ball around.
His teammates are laughing now, but it is that sort of enthusiasm to get back on the field that will make the difference for the 2002 Falcons. Without eight key seniors from last year's team, the South Whidbey boys are plugging a lot of new players into positions around the field.
Dave Guetlin, the team's coach, said he needs to make good choices in his varsity lineup, since the players on that team will have to go the distance. Lacking much depth, the Falcons will wind up relying on key players like pitchers Ben Schultz and Bryan Wenker, and offensive threat Brady Switzer for the big plays that win ball games.
"We're looking for big years from them," he said.
Guetlin, who is starting his second season with the Falcons, said he thinks he has the right players where he needs them to be. A pre-season evaluation, conducted by a number of local baseball coaches during the first week of practice, gave each player on the team a report card on his skills. The coach said that will be helpful in developing players, and was crucial in selecting team lineups.
Regardless of their "grades," all the Falcon players need to give just a little more than last year's team, which missed making the playoffs by one game. Switzer, who is a senior, said much of that extra effort needs to come from the team's pitchers. Defense is also key, for those times when the pressure on the mound gets to be too much.
"I think our defense will do pretty good this year," he said.
Team coaches will also be putting their efforts into building for the future. A large bunch of freshmen are out for the team this year, along with four sophomores. The Falcons have just enough players to field varsity and junior varsity squads.
The toughest battles on the game field this year will come against Meridian, Granite Falls and Nooksack Valley, Guetlin said. He just hopes they are not quite the teams they were last year: A playoff spot for his team could depend on it.
The Falcons open their season on Monday with a home game against Anacortes. Varsity and junior varsity games begin at 3:30 p.m.
Hard-core Falcon baseball fans will be able to keep track of stats and other diamond tidbits on the team's Web page.
To find the Falcons online, go to www.sw.wednet.edu and follow the links to the high school's athletics page.