Washington Evening Journal
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Fairfield Ledger   Mt. Pleasant News
Neighbors Growing Together | Jun 28, 2017

Exciting year coming for Washington baseball team

By Bill Gatchel | May 18, 2017
Photo by: Bill Gatchel Michael Geyer takes a turn at bat during the scrimmage game against the softball team Monday, May 15.

The Washington baseball season is set to begin next week and on the team this year are many familiar faces, including eight seniors.

Coach Nathan Miller says those seniors are returning along with others from last season.

“Pretty much all of the seniors are coming back,” he says. “All of them will contribute significantly this year.

“The group of juniors and sophomores along with one freshman who will also contribute and we’re excited about their growth and what we have to look forward to this season.”

Even though it’s the start of a new season, the team is picking up where it left off.

“We finished 17-14 last year,” Miller says, “and we probably had a half-dozen games that were within one or two runs to where if we would have capitalized on a couple situations or minimized some big innings for the other team, I think there was a chance where we would have broken the 20-win mark last year.

“We don’t ever set a win mark goal because our goal is to win all of them if we can.

“I think this team has the opportunity to take some big strides forward and compete with Fairfield for a conference title this year along with Mt. Pleasant as well. Keokuk and Fort Madison will be vastly improved as well. It’s going to be a competitive conference.”

It’s been a great start to the year before the season has ever started and the seniors are responsible for that.

“We’ve had some good practices already and that’s because of senior leadership,” Miller says.

“Their attitude and their energy, everything they’re bringing right now is where we need it to be.”

The returning players from last year are welcoming new ones to this year’s roster.

“Freshman Luke Turner will play the middle infield,” Miller says. “He, along with Kiowa Keith, will be an infielder for us as well.

“They are filling the two spots left open from seniors last year.

What about those returning?

“Jacob Hall is one of our returning pitchers from last year, but he will mix into the outfield this year,” Miller says.

“Landon Hinckley is signing in as our backup catcher right now but also is getting in some work in the infield.

“I have really seen some growth in Erik Murphy’s pitching. He’s going to help us out on the mound.

“Chase McDole is a sophomore that has also looked really good on the mound.

“Cale Hobschiedt has looked good on the mound as well, and he might play at first base from time to time.

“Aaron Vittetoe is a senior at first and will be a second-year starter for us, so there might be some opportunities for Cale.

Some players from the JV team might play during the season.

“We have some sophomores that we might use,” Miller said. “We play several JV/varsity games, so I like to dress [out] some of the younger guys who have some fast foot speed.

“We will use them as base runners, so we’ll have a couple of young guys step up there and help out in that realm.

“It also gives them the opportunity to learn the speed of the game so when they come in next year as sophomores or juniors they are able to adjust better.”

In the past, there was at least one special game that was played out of state, but that won’t be the case this year.

“Playing the game in St. Louis is done for a while. We’ve gone every three years. Last year we went and [were] rained out.

“It’s such a big undertaking in terms of selling the number of tickets that we have to, and everybody bought tickets, and to come back and try to sell tickets in back-to-back years it can be very tough.

“The one thing I’m disappointed in is that we couldn’t find a game with Highland to play at Kernels Stadium in Cedar Rapids this year.

“We’ve been up there for the last six or seven years and the dates the Kernels had available for us to use their stadium, we either had a game, Highland had a game or there was one Sunday and I wasn’t wanting to play on a Sunday if we didn’t have to.”

Fans coming to the Washington games will see a solid Demons team.

“You’ll see a team that’s poised and one that we’ve been talking about that is confident,” Miller says.

“There’s a cross between confidence and being arrogant or cocky. Good teams are confident in themselves and feel they can handle the various situations that occur in a game.

“I think you’ll see guys that are playing with confidence.

“I think you’ll see a chemistry that has really grown over the last couple years and we’re finally hitting a place where we need to be from a chemistry side of things.

“We have such a large group of seniors that started out as freshmen three years ago and we haven’t had a lot of upperclassmen in the past.

“When you’re dealing with a higher number of seniors, you typically see a tighter and stronger chemistry between the group. I think the fans will see that, along hopefully a lot of excitement.”

The team’s first game is Tuesday, May 23, against Eddyville. To get ready for that game, the team has been focusing on dialing in on defense Miller says.

“We are working on all the defensive things we need to shore up,” he says.

“And then it’s all about repetition and staying hungry. I told the parents after the scrimmage game Monday, May 15, that the first two weeks are usually the easiest because of the newness of the season.

“It’s usually the third week where the games are games are still on the distant horizon, but they’re not here yet.

“So you see some of the guys going through the motions that week, but this group is different.

“This group has been fantastic. In my 13 years, this team has been the most fun group that I’ve been around the first couple of weeks.

“Their chemistry has been fantastic. If you have good chemistry, you can handle a lot of adversity during the season.

“Hopefully we won’t have to handle too much adversity, but this group is capable of handling that along with having a fun and successful season.

The boys’ game begins at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday.

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