Faced with the youngest group of players in his nine years as Falcon baseball coach, Dave Guetlin took the only option open to him. He went back to basics.
“This is a year for reloading; it happens to the best teams,” Guetlin said. “We need to be sure they know the fundamentals before expanding into the finer details.”
As an example, last year the team studied seven different ways to bunt. This year, only two.
“They’ll just have to learn under fire,” Guetlin said. “But they seem like a talented bunch, needing a little experience under their belt.”
South Whidbey finished 2007 at 12-8 in the Cascade Conference but was 0-2 at the district playoffs in Anacortes.
With Jason Shoudy and Lakota Holder gone, the team had no returning varsity pitchers.
Not a problem. Adam Babcock transferred from Bellingham, and Luke Hodson, John Adams and CJ Baker will rotate at the mound for the time being.
“Others could fill in as the season moves along,” the coach said.
Returning starters Trapper Rawls and Aaron Mannie will share catcher duties while Baker and Nick Tenuta will provide primary offense at the plate.
“Nick and CJ are both capable of hitting the ball well,” Guetlin noted.
Sadly, one teammate won’t be playing.
Colton Wilson, whose valiant battle with cancer was a high point for the entire South End community a year ago, underwent surgery Feb. 13.
“A screw on the bottom section of his lower leg failed and he’s on crutches for at least six weeks,” Guetlin noted. “However, I’ve put Colton in charge of the bullpen to keep those guys hard at work.”
The new facilities at Falcon Field — batting cages, bullpens, hitting machines — are a big hit with the team. Clearly there’s a different mindset when one is standing on artificial turf instead of mud.
Guetlin’s aware that getting to districts in Anacortes will be an uphill battle since Cedarcrest was second in state in 2A and didn’t lose anyone. “Granite Falls and Archbishop Murphy will be tough; in fact we are the hardest 2A league in the state.”
As young as they are, Guetlin has inculcated them with a simple game strategy — one pitch at a time.
“They need to think through all the scenarios of each inning and exactly what they would do if the ball comes their way,” said the coach.
Guetlin freely admits the debt he owes to his assistants. Tom Fallon works with hitters and is the bench coach; Dave Moody handles catchers and outfielders while Frank Parra and Guetlin coach infielders, pitchers and catchers.
“I consider myself extremely fortunate to have them,” Guetlin said. “They know what to do, giving me the chance to evaluate talent.”
At 11 a.m. today on Falcon Field, the boys host Oak Harbor and Coupeville for a jamboree. Each team plays two three-inning games.
“It’s an opportunity to mix and match players, get some of the nerves out of the way and see what needs work.”
Rabid Falcon baseball fans can uncover the entire history of the team through a Web site constructed by David Nelson — www.sw.wednet.edu/sites/hs/hsasb/hsathletics — if anything is missing here, it isn’t worth knowing about.