Imagine, if you will, a group of high school students left in the middle of a grassy field on a beautiful spring afternoon – without supervision.
Many different scenarios leap to mind, a few downright scary.
That wasn’t the case, however, with this particular crew. With coach Ron Phillips running late, the Forest Lake Christian baseball team started practice without him.
No whining. No horsing around. No nonsense.
Team captain Corbin Phillips grabbed a bat and started hitting infield practice, yelling out scenarios to the team and shouting words of encouragement.
That’s the type of drive that may just set the stage for this season.
Forest Lake had some success two seasons ago with a few players going off to continue their careers in college. However, there wasn’t enough interest in the sport last season, and the Falcons were left without a team.
All that has changed this season.
Not only have the Falcons found enough interest to field a team, but Forest Lake kicked off the year with a five-inning, 15-5 win against Lutheran (Elk Grove). The Falcons pounded out 17 hits in the win.
“I don’t even know how to put this into words,” said coach Phillips, who was an assistant for the team two years ago. “The school’s thoughts were just to get a team out there, then maybe within the next few years try to get something rolling.
“I came in expecting to rebuild a program and get a team on the field. To do anything beyond that would just be gravy.”
The concept of actually winning a game this season wasn’t really on the radar screen, especially this early in the season. Yet here sit the Falcons with not only a win, but a 10-run mercy rule win, under their belt.
Now that Forest Lake started with a win, however, Phillips’ expectations – and those of the team – may be a little different.
“Now, my expectations include winning,” Phillips said. “When I saw this team come out, I was very encouraged. There are some great athletes. It’s just that some may have played little league before and that’s it, but it’s something to build upon.
“I’m excited about working with this team.”
Don’t expect to see the Falcons go undefeated this season, but the early season optimism is catching. Phillips said there were plenty of people on hand for the Falcons’ first game, and the result may bring the fans back for more.
The Falcons consist of only juniors and freshmen. Two of the biggest surprises for Phillips are junior twins Zach Rose and Matt Rose. The two played soccer in the fall, while Matt played tennis and Zach played basketball last year. Neither has played baseball since getting to high school.
However, Matt came out in the first game and went 4-for-4 from the plate.
“I was really nervous,” Matt said of his first at-bat. “I didn’t know what was going to happen.”
What ended up happening was Matt drove one to the fence for a double and was just shy of hitting it out of the park.
“I was just trying my best and praying to God,” Matt said. “He definitely answered my prayers, because it was about a foot below the fence.”
The biggest draw for Zach to play this season was the players on the team.
“It’s a lot of fun and the guys out here are really cool,” Zach said. “It’s sweet. The guys are real encouraging.”
Zach is pretty sure he knows why the Falcons have already found success and may find more in the near future.
“I think it’s all about the chemistry of the team,” Zach said. “With no seniors, the juniors are leading and making a good example for the freshmen.”
To contact Sports Writer Ross Maak, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call 477-4244.
Coach: Ted White (13th season as Nevada Union head coach)
Last year: 14-4 in the Metro Conference (Second place), 19-9 overall.
Key losses: Nick Gauldin (Pitcher, shortstop), Daniel Graning (catcher), Josh Noxon (center field), Dan Stith (First base, pitcher)
Key returnees: Kelcey Wirick (shortstop, pitcher), Zander Zeisler (First base, pitcher), Devin Jenovese (outfield, pitcher), Russell Brackett (outfield, pitcher), Dane Debogeleare (Third base, pitcher).
Conference: This is the Miners’ first year back in the Sierra Foothill League, and according to White there isn’t a weak team in the new league. He called the SFL one of the toughest leagues in the Sacramento area, including powerhouses Woodcreek, Granite Bay, Rocklin and Nevada Union.
Key games: White said any games against Granite Bay (at Granite Bay Friday and April 16, at home April 13), Rocklin (at Rocklin March 26 and May 4, at home May 2) and Woodcreek (10-2 loss at Woodcreek Wednesday, at Woodcreek April 11, at home March 30) are important ones.
Quote: “I feel like we have a great group here,” White said. “They love baseball and are willing to practice anywhere – in the gym, on the blacktop, on the football field – they just go out and get after it.”
Coach: Mike Viola (Eighth year)
Last year: Bear River ran through the Pioneer Valley League undefeated at 11-0 and finished the regular season 22-1.
Key losses: Robbie Alcombrack (catcher), Tyler French (pitcher), Ryan Giacomini (second base), Matt Miraldi (center field), Steve Sitter (catcher, pitcher, designated hitter), Matt Hilton (shortstop).
Key returnees: Brynn Beck (Sr., third base, pitcher), A.J. Nunez (Sr., center fielder).
Conference: The league has a different look this year. The seven teams are Whitney, Placer, Colfax, Mesa Verde, El Dorado, Lincoln and Bear River.
Key games: According to Viola, one big game for Bear River was Thursday’s 5-5 tie against Division I Folsom, a bigger school than Bear River. Bear River opens its conference season Tuesday with a 4 p.m. home game against rival Colfax.
Quote: “I don’t like to use the term ‘rebuilding year.’ That’s what our JV program does. Yes, we’re young, but players on the varsity team need to compete.
Coach: Ron Phillips (First year)
Last year: Forest Lake didn’t field a team last season.
Key losses: None.
Key returnees: Corbin Phillips (Jr., pitcher/shortstop/catcher), Chase Fiore (Jr., pitcher/centerfielder). Both played as freshman before the team disbanded for a season.
Conference: The Falcons will play in the Central Valley Christian League, consisting of Forest Lake as well as Woodland Christian, Foresthill, Sacramento Waldorf, Vacaville Christian and Victory Christian.
Key games: The Falcons open the conference season at home against Woodland Christian, which Phillips said was a top team two years ago but may have fallen on tougher times as of late. Forest Lake faces Woodland Christian at 3:30 p.m. on March 23 at Forest Lake.
Quote: “One day it was raining and I said there wouldn’t be a practice,” Phillips said. “They came out and practiced anyway. That’s the type of team we have here this year.”
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The Little League District 11 postseason is off to a hot start.