The Del Norte baseball team is gearing up for the 2014 season with high hopes.
When the Warriors take the field today at 11 a.m. for their season opening doubleheader against St. Bernard’s, they will look remarkably similar to the 2013 baseball team.
“We have pretty good hopes to be towards the top of the conference this year,” said senior shortstop Nathan Porter. “We have had three years of underclassmen playing that are now going to be three- or four-year varsity players, so we should have a lot of maturity.”
Porter, along with senior second basemen Chris Bray and catcher Josiah Johnson are entering their fourth year playing for the Del Norte varsity team. They are joined by five other seniors who have amassed significant playing time on the diamond as well.
“We have had that same group of kids together through little league and Babe Ruth,” said Del Norte head coach Travis Johnson. “They have played together for many years, so they already know how they play and what tendencies they have.”
Junior Steven Maready will reprise his starting role at third base this season, as will sophomore Austin Healy at first base, giving Del Norte its entire 2013 starting infield back.
With so many fielders returning, Johnson expects that to be the team’s identity.
“Defense is our main strength,” Johnson said. “Our offense is pretty good too, but on defense we are pretty stingy. Everybody does their job. Everybody is sound at every position. They know what to do with the ball when they get it.”
Offensively, Del Norte will be hoping to manufacture a few more runs than last year. The Warriors scored just 46 runs in league play in 2013, 10 less than the second lowest scoring team in the conference.
Porter was the team’s top hitter last season, with a .441 batting average and 11 RBI. Aaron Fitch had the next highest average with at least 20 at bats, finishing the year at .333.
Although the Warriors struggled to score runs at times last season, Johnson is confident that the offense will be improved this season.
“We really don’t have any weaknesses,” Johnson said of his batting order. “We should be good one through nine. We will wait and see once we get into live games, but in batting practice they just crush the ball.”
Once the Warriors get on the bases, they will look to create havoc with their legs. Last season, Del Norte had a total of 38 stolen bases and Johnson expects to continue that aggressive style of base running.
“We are very aggressive and they are all really good on the bases,” Johnson said. “I give them the green light pretty much all the time to go when they think they can go.”
Junior Johnny Calderon is the Warriors’ top returning pitcher, throwing 37.2 innings last year with a 5.76 ERA and a 2-4 record. Maready, Porter, Aaron Fitch and Austin Healy also threw some innings last year.
“I don’t have just one or two, I have eight or nine kids that can throw,” Johnson said. “We are going to have a lot of games in a row, so we are going to need all the arms we can get.”
Johnson said the team’s goal this season is to win the Humboldt-Del Norte Big 5. Last year, the Warriors went 2-10 in the league, but five of those losses came by three runs or less.
“Last year we lost a lot of games because we would have one bad inning where they would get three runs or so,” Porter said. “We just need to stop those big innings, and I think a lot of it last year just came down to maturity and confidence.”