Youthful Bulldogs eager to take on Wildcats
Brock Hartshorn might have a little bit of extra motivation to win today's doubleheader against the De Soto Wildcats.
Besides being the opening game for his Baldwin High School baseball team and being the home opener, Hartshorn has extra fuel to add to his team's fire. He used to coach the Wildcats before coming to BHS. Plus, he is former teammates with the Wildcats' coach.
All of this could make for an exciting opening doubleheader at the BHS ball fields. The action begins at 4:30 p.m.
"This is what we've been waiting for," Hartshorn said. "The weather has finally changed to warmer. We are ready to play baseball. We get to open against the team I used to coach. Add the fact that their coach and I played college baseball together and you've got a little rivalry. It's a friendly rivalry. I still want to go back and show that I can coach."
The Bulldogs are coming off a season in which they finished 4-15 and lost several seniors to graduation. However, Hartshorn and senior Zach Durr are remaining optimistic about this spring.
"I have been looking forward to this season for a long time," Durr said. "Now that it's finally here, I am ready to get started and prove to people that this is a totally different ball club from last year. We are looking to be a lot more competitive."
One major reason is the influx of talented freshmen that will be making an impact. Combine them with five returning upperclassmen and the Bulldogs are anxious to step out on the diamond.
"They have been good leaders for these four weeks," Hartshorn said of his three seniors. "We will have five freshmen and six at times play varsity baseball. That's a very young team, but not as inexperienced as people would like to think. They have played a lot of baseball and you can tell when we get out here. We're pretty excited about this year and for the future."
Durr said the team is ready to play and the first few weeks have provided a promising start to the season.
"I haven't noticed much of a difference with all the incoming freshmen playing varsity this year," Durr said. "The team has a great work ethic, and if we stick with it we can accomplish great things even with our youth."
Along with Durr, seniors Michael Barnes and Aaron Karlin will be leading the Bulldogs this spring. The pair of juniors are Jon Eddy and Andy Thurlow. Hartshorn said around five or six freshmen will be playing on the BHS varsity team this spring. He said the youth has helped make practices enjoyable and hard working.
"Practices have been pretty energetic," Hartshorn said. "We're a young group. We've been practicing pretty hard and I think they're ready to play. We've been waiting for four weeks to play De Soto. They are pretty excited and they are ready to play."
Baldwin will also use an array of pitchers this spring. Those could include Durr, Barnes, Eddy, freshman Justin Vander Tuig and freshman Josh Hoffman.
"We have about six or seven pitchers this year, which is a great thing to have," Hartshorn said. "They're young arms, so they won't throw a lot of complete games."
As a team, the Bulldogs have set a goal of reaching the Class 4A state tournament in May. Hartshorn said the team is striving high, but is willing to work hard to achieve its season goal.
"They've set the goal of wanting to qualify for the state tournament and that is our expectation as a team," Hartshorn said. "One of our team mottos is we set a goal and then we work until we accomplish it. Then we set a new goal. That's what we are working toward as a team."
The first step in reaching that goal will be today's doubleheader against De Soto, which begins at 4:30 p.m. BHS practiced on its field Monday and Tuesday to prepare for the season-opening contest.
"We've got a lot of work done in the last two days," Hartshorn said. "Monday we stayed out until dark to get stuff done, just simply because we haven't been out here. It's been nice to actually get out on the field."
Hartshorn also said the Bulldogs are excited to start at home because of their fans and the advantage they feel they have with their field.
"We do have a home-field advantage and we talked about that tonight," Hartshorn said. "The dimensions of our field cause people to come in here thinking 'I am going to hit homeruns' and we try to use that to our advantage. We know you can play deep and still throw guys out. Hopefully, we can use the field to our advantage and get a couple of wins."