Augusta's baseball team begins its season Thursday at home against El Dorado after Monday's games at Mulvane were postponed.
Sometimes youth isn't a bad thing.
Augusta's baseball team has just three seniors with extended varsity experience. The bulk of the team is made up of underclassmen
But the Orioles are a loose group. At practices, they remember to have fun while playing the game. They also know when it's time to step up and be a vocal leader. Even a lot of the sophomores who got varsity time last year have stepped us as leaders.
"They're fun to have around. They keep everybody going, keep everybody loose," coach Doug Jefferson said.
They may be young at several key spots, but that doesn't mean they don't have good experience. As the season begins Monday at Mulvane, the Orioles want to show they're hungry to prove they can compete with anyone.
"I'm really excited to have just a good group of athletes. We haven't had this many athletes in quite a while. It's fun," Jefferson said. "They come out, they compete. I'm sure we'll make some mistakes, but we'll learn from them and move on."
While mistakes come with the territory, the outlook for a lot of the key players is different.
"Just having more self-confidence. I felt a lot of pressure last year just being a freshman on varsity," Michael Albright said. "That pressure is kind of gone. I have to take more of a leadership role."
Of course, being young doesn't excuse the players from making the same mistake twice, something Jefferson said bothers him more than anything. Augusta has the talent to win a lot of games. It will be a matter of consistency, which can be a challenge for younger players.
"I can see us putting up a lot of runs. I can see us being very good defensively, but I don't know if it's all going to be at the same time or consistent," Jefferson said. "It has to be consistent."
Left is right
Kolton Schenker, who earned All-League honors last year, isn't much of a secret for the Orioles anymore. He has the chance to be one of the best pitchers in the league.
Ian Rogers, who wasn't able to pitch last year with injuries to his arm, said he's close to full strength and should be a key cog in the Orioles' rotation.
"They're both lefties, so that will be nice," Jefferson said.
Schenker has enough in his repertoire and enough pitching speed to be the strikeout pitcher the Orioles may need him to be.
"That's not me, but I've done it before and I know I can. I'll just have to work more offspeed stuff," Schenker said. "... I don't really put pressure on myself. I just lock in."
Schenker already has been more vocal when he's on the mound. He's been able to help direct the infield and help with situational plays.
When he isn't pitching, Schenker will be in the outfield, where he played during the summer. It's a move Jefferson made to take advantage of his speed and athleticism. Rogers likely will play first base.
Albright, Connor Hurst and Mason Hiser will fill out the rest of the main rotation, all three of whom are sophomores. They had their ups and downs last years, which was to be expected, but they feel they've improved quite a bit from where they were at this point last season.
"I'm throwing more strikes," Albright said, "more around the strike zone, being able to hit spots."
"I'm throwing a lot harder than I was last year," Hiser said. "And my curve ball is on. It wasn't last year. My changeup actually breaks instead of just being like my fastball."
Senior Tyler Roberts, who was sorely missed all of last season, has made an impression in his return. Roberts will be the team's primary catcher, and he should be an invaluable hitter.
"He's a kid with a lot of baseball experience and he brings another stick to the lineup, which we really need," Jefferson said of Roberts. "He's done great for us so far. Good leadership and everything."
In and out
Along with pitching, Hiser's key role for the team will be at shortstop. He will have a lot of responsibilities, but he said he's up to the challenge.
"To lead the infield," Hiser said. "Being shortstop is going to have a lot of pressure.
I have to keep the infield heads up on the runners and tell the outfield where they're going. Tell the pitcher who's got him on double plays when the ball gets hit back to him."
Senior Chase Winter will return to second base after taking over at catcher last season. Winter has had plenty of experience in the infield.
Hurst and Schenker, two of the faster players for Augusta, will be in the outfield, along with senior Tyler Bond.
Hitting the mark
A concern for Augusta is its hitting. But having big bats from Roberts and Rogers should bring quite a bit of reprieve.
"I feel like I can come in and show some people how to hit," Rogers said with a grin.
The team is still comfortable resorting to small ball if necessary. The Orioles have speed across the board, so getting on base with bunts and stealing could be a big part of their gameplan.
The Orioles have a lot of pieces in place. More than anything, though, they should stay loose and work together as a team.
"My biggest advice for them would be just to relax and play," Schenker said about the younger players. "It's the same game you've been playing since you were 6."
2013 Varsity schedule
March 25* @ Mulvane
March 28 v. El Dorado
April 4 @ Wellington
April 8 @ Collegiate
April 11 v. Circle
April 15 v. McPherson
April 22 @ Clearwater
April 29 v. Andale
May 2 @ Maize South
May 6 v. Buhler
May 13, 15 - Regionals
May 23-24 - State
*Postponed, remake not yet determined.