“We try to start with a winning attitude,” said Burke. “You can’t walk on the ball field April 8 and say ‘We have a winning attitude,’ It starts here, and they’ve been picking up their level of play every day.”
The Wildcats roster has had to grow up fast in their roles. Last year’s team consisted of no seniors, two juniors, seven sophomores, and a freshman, and while they were young, they were able to make it to the second round of the Division IV playoffs with a 6-10 record. Rochester halted their season with an 11-2 defeat.
With a shuffled deck of players this year, the Wildcats will rely on those core players from last year to lead, and will use their versatility as an asset.
With the departure of Colin Lozito and Eli Park, the Wildcats lost both of their catchers this year, and with six pitchers on their staff, incoming players as well as veterans will act as the team’s Swiss army knives, able to do any job, and fill any gap. The outfielder-heavy team allows Twin Valley’s coaches to move Craig Green into catching duties, while using other outfielders like Sam Molner to play shortstop or second base should an infielder be called upon to pitch.
Twin Valley will also use freshmen to fill roles, along with first-year-player senior Hunter Therrien.
“Each guy who is a capable player must help those who are just beginning,” said Burke. “We have a lot of green talent in our ninth-grade players.
“What we’re also setting up for here is our ninth graders learning the winning way from our older guys. These guys learned from the guys before them.”
The chess game Burke and his fellow coaches will play with their roster is something they want to use to their advantage. “Moving players around helps team chemistry,” said Burke. “If someone’s pitching, and you fill their spot, you become a general of the field, not just one infield position. If we start using ninth graders now, and start using them in different positions, it gives them a much greater scope of what they can play.”
With their more experienced roster, and an improvement in batting, Twin Valley’s coaches believe their boys can finish with a .750 winning percentage, and will be competitive again in the playoffs. The Wildcats will face competition from Mt. St. Joseph, Poultney, Black River, and rival Leland & Gray, which boasts a JV team.
The Wildcats expect to be a strong pitching team led by lefty senior captain Jason Moore, and featuring Cade and Dal Nesbitt, who typically hold down the shortstop and second base duties. Freshman DJ Lazelle may see time on the mound to add another southpaw to the mix, along with Kyle Murdock.
“They believe this is their time,” said Burke, “You teach your players it’s not about who the other guy is, it’s about who you are.
“When you go out on an opponent’s field you take it, and you take it with attitude. We’re going to put the nine players who’ll give us the best chance of doing that out there each game.”
Twin Valley begins their season at Arlington on April 8 at 4:30 pm.