“We’re so far ahead of where we were last year,” said Twin Valley coach Brian Monroe on Tuesday. “We’re probably two weeks ahead of where we were last year, just with the commitment level and the effort from the team.”
Last season the Wildcats finished 5-8-1, but played winning ball in the second half of the season. They finished the regular season with a two-game winning streak before they bowed out in the first round of the state playoffs, losing a tight ballgame to Thetford 6-4.
As is often the case in the high country of Vermont in April, getting outside on a ball field can be difficult. With snow still covering the ground locally, the team traveled to Massachusetts on Monday for a scrimmage with Mohawk Regional High School’s varsity. Monroe said it was a good experience.
“Mohawk has a good team. We learned we have a lot to improve on,” he said. “But the kids are doing a great job, it’s just going to be a process.”
The Wildcats have five seniors on the team, who Monroe hopes will proved some leadership on and off the field. ‘I’m looking for them to step up and produce,” he said.
The senior class is anchored by four-year varsity players James McGovern and Joey Rafus. Hayden Reed, Logan Park, and Conner Dupuis return to the the team after taking a season or two off.
Other players include junior Dylan Howe, sophomores Tyson Longe, Eric Bolognani, Allen Cole, Jack Kehoe, and Dylan Dupuis, and freshmen Colin McHale and Izaak Park.
In baseball, pitching will carry the team.
According to Monroe, he has five strong pitchers available in Rafus, McGovern, Cole, Longe, and Connor Dupuis. He also hopes to develop another pitcher or two. Bolognani will handle most of the catching duties, as he did last season.
As for position players, the Wildcats will be a bit of a mix and match, depending on who is pitching for them and who they are playing.
Reed, Longe, McHale, and the Park brothers will split time in the outfield. Reed and Rafus will platoon at first base, while Howe, McGovern, and the Dupuis brothers will rotate between second, third, and shortstop.
Joining Monroe on the bench will be coaches Rob Bolognani, who will work with the field players, and Dave Meeker, who will work with the pitchers.
“The players have set some team goals,” said Monroe. “They’re high expectations, but ones we hope we can beat.”
Ultimately, the Wildcats will succeed or fail on the field. The coaches and players know that, and are building toward the season opener.
We want to make sure we have a good foundation,” said Monroe, “making sure we’re in the right place. But more so, it’s about getting some games under our belt.”
To that end, the Wildcats travel to Chester on Monday to face Green Mountain to start the season in earnest. First pitch is slated for 4:30 pm.