Batter up!

Indoor spring training prepares Sailors for diamond season

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— The repetitive sound of clicking and thuds that echo through the hallways of Steamboat Springs High School after school most afternoons can be mind numbing.

That is, unless you love baseball.

The noise, a loud clink followed by the dull thud of a baseball hitting the hardwood floor and the smack of a ball hitting a mitt, can be heard most every weekday night since the Sailors opened practice more than a month ago.

But the team's new head coach, Joss Vinson, isn't letting the usual scenery of the high school gym tone down his enthusiasm or his expectations for the Sailors' baseball team this spring.

"Where I came from we practiced in a gym every now and then, but it wasn't because of snow it was because of rain," Vinson said after practice.

"We have a lot of young talent on this team," Vinson said. "If we instill the right mechanics here in the gym there is no reason we shouldn't be competitive when we get out on the field."

In fact, in the team's first outings of the season it wasn't fielding errors that cost the team.

The team just wasn't hitting the ball. Steamboat lost to 2-12 to Olathe and 2-7 to Hotchkiss.

"It was a really weird game," senior Evan Wojtowicz said of the game against Olathe. "Normally we struggle the first few games with our fielding, but we can hit, In those games our fielding was awesome, but we couldn't hit the ball."

So this week the team focused on hitting the ball inside the long black netted batting cage set up in the old gym.

"We just need to pull the trigger when we are up at the plate," senior Joe Liefer said.

Both Liefer and Wojtowicz are veterans of the team and played a major role in last year's season which ended with a loss to the Glenwood Springs Demons (19-4) in the district pig tail game.

The Sailors finished the season in fourth place in the league with a 3-6 record. The team was 3-16 overall.

This year Vinson will step to the plate as the team's head coach replacing John Aragon who wanted to spend more time with his family.

Vinson said the team's 25 man roster will be split into varsity and junior varsity squads. However, he plans on using the junior varsity team much the same way a major league ball club would use the minor league system.

"I see the junior varsity squad as a way to work out some kinks, get some experience and build confidence," Vinson said.

So he said he will move players up and down frequently to achieve his main goal.

"Our goal is to win," Vinson said. "So even though some of these early games will be a learning experience for us. We will treat it as a game and we will be going all out to win."

The coach is still working on the final starting roster which he said is starting to come together, however, he added that lineup will change often depending on play.

Expect to see players life Liefer, Wojtowicz, Dustin Gunderson, Ryan Marsden, Steve Mahosky, Preston Stanfill, Scott Middleton, JoJo Bucci, Jeff Franks, and Adam Grimes playing this season. Vinson also has high hopes for players like Travis Wolf and Owland Mackey.

Injured players include Tannar Barr, recently underwent shoulder surgery and will be the team's designated hitter, and Ryan Kiely who is still questionable after suffering a serious injury in last month's state basketball game against Lewis-Palmer.

Pitching this season will come from Gunderson, Sean Murphy, David May, Danny Martin and Robert Beck. Vinson said it should be a solid rotation and he is still waiting for a ace to come out of the mix.

"We are still making some choices," Vinson said. "I've got a few players still in hockey and basketball. Once they get back I will know what I'm working with."

Vinson recently moved to Steamboat from Alabama and said he will continue to stress defense especially in the early season.

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