LONG BEACH - Seven starters graduated and one moved away, leaving newly annointed Ilwaco High School baseball coach Kevin Heimbigner with a major rebuilding project.
"We need to begin with a solid foundation, and I think we have that," Heimbigner said.
Sophomore Nick Leonard has been throwing very well so far in practices and will share mound duties with seniors Ryan Cadwell and Rocky Mirelez - the trio all play middle infield as well.
"Mooch" Smith is stellar behind the plate, having earned all-Trico League honorable mention as a freshman last season.From there the experience factor goes to zero, but the dedication and hustle tank is full, according to Heimbigner.Seniors Shane Padgett, John Wright, Brian Meyer and Zach Graff all show varsity-level potential.
Sophomores Travis Ostgaard, Jarod Schaak, Mike Huitt and Bobby Crislip all have worked on the hill and can play several other positions.Freshman Anthony Wirkkala has pitched very well and could toe the rubber for the Fishermen varsity.
"We're working hard to develop pitchers. It looks like we'll need more than one to complete a game," said Heimbigner."Our philosophy is to throw the ball as hard as we can for as long as we can and get it over the plate, then we'll get someone else in there.Our defense and hitting are improving every day."
Assistant coach Dave Cook is working with the JV squad and has several eager athletes ready and able to take a varsity job should one become available.Quinn Padgett has shown promise as an outfielder and is joined on the team by Kelsey Cutting, Jason Hall, Michel Perez and Alan Mossman. Padgett is a junior, the rest are sophomores.
Freshmen on the team are many and talented.Alex Martin, Cody Chalker, C.J. Hawkinson, Paul Blaylock, Cory Padgett and Casey Heagy all show the ability to be good players, as do Steve Edgar, Jeff Nesbitt, Kyler Pratt and Junior Talancon.
The 28-man squad will open non-league play with back-to-back home games against Naselle March 18 and 19 at 4 p.m. at the Long Beach Field.