By RUSSELL JONES
The Otter Valley baseball program fulfilled all of its goals in 2017, bringing home the state championship that season. Two years later, they still have nine players that were there for that ride and are ready to do it one more time.
But, those players also know they’ll have to give it their all to bring home the trophy.
“They know that it will take more than just energy, more than just effort,” head coach Michael Howe said. “It will take commitment and they’ll have to work hard to get there.”
Experience and depth are two factors that give this year’s team an advantage from the get-go.
“We have seven guys who have essentially played the entire game for their whole careers,” Howe said. “They have all gotten time on the field and the lineup won’t change much so there’s a consistency there.”
Howe said the team’s pitching is good and they have a number of players who can throw lots of innings.
“It’s always a good thing when you have experience and can go out there and throw strikes,” he said. “We have quite a few guys who can eat up innings, which is important when you get into the meat of the season and you’re playing three of four games a week.”
The coach said the offensive philosophy would rely on pressure.
“When we get a runner on base, our goal is to drive that runner in,” Howe said. “We can hit-and-run and we can steal. We’ll do whatever it takes to keep pressure on that opposing pitcher. If we can keep the focus on the runners, the batters have a much easier time at the plate.”
As far as the most challenging matchups of the season, Howe said he doesn’t know much about the northern part of the state, but Fair Haven will be a test.
“Fair Haven is always good,” he said. “That is a fun competition. They always play their best against us.”
The snow has kept the team practicing indoors, but they will make up for that soon enough. The team has a trip to Florida planned in a few weeks, where they will practice at Dodgertown, where the Dodgers hold spring training.
Howe said when they get to the playoffs, anything can happen. As his team found out last year when they lost at home in the quarterfinals.
“The goal is always to make it to Centennial Field, and these guys have kind of a sour taste in their mouth with the way last season ended,” he said. “They’re playing with a chip on their shoulder this season. The goal is to hang another banner and I think they’re ready for the challenge.”