CARLIN — Last year there was a lot of youth and fresh faces in the Carlin baseball program.
Zac Widmer took over in his first season as head coach of the Railroaders and the team built around its youth. Only three seniors played on the team last year.
Still, the Railroaders pulled it together, had a 14-game winning streak during the season, entered the Regional Tournament as the top seed for the third time in four years and finished 22-9 overall.
This year they’re ready to build on what they started.
“I don’t know if (the expectations) are different. They’re always going to be high. Playing at this level you always have high expectations. We’re always looking to play hard and whatever happens, happens,” Widmer said. “We feel we have a good foundation of kids from last year.”
While the graduation losses weren’t many from last year, they were huge.
Ryan Gamble played center field and won the most pitching decisions for Carlin last year and Tyler Sirotek was a reliable catcher and a speedster on the bases.
Both players were also two of the top four hitters on the team in batting average.
“They were definitely big losses, but we have a lot of kids returning that have experience. Hopefully, they’re not missed too much. They had a lot of experience, but we have kids that can step up and fill their roles quickly,” Widmer said.
One of those will be senior Jacob Burris-blaine. He plays third base, pitches and can hit in multiple spots in the lineup. Widmer said he’ll be a leader of the team.
Robert Kitts brings back the best glove, playing shortstop, and he pitches as well.
Christian Matosich played first base last year, but caught at times too and Widmer said he’ll replace the graduated Sirotek at backstop.
Antonio Macias was the leadoff batter last year and as an all-around athlete, Widmer will look for him to be a go-to-guy for everything.
Jordan Stills will anchor an outfield with a lot of youth and Dylan Newman will play in the infield after getting bigger and stronger from last year, according to Widmer.
Defensively, most of the experiences comes in the infield for the Railroaders where they hope to form yet again a strong defensive-minded ball club.
“We’re pretty solid in the infield as far as experience goes and in the outfield we’ll be a little bit younger. We will maybe move some kids around (in the outfield) and play it as it goes,” Widmer said. “Defense was a priority for us last year and it will be this year too.”
Although it grabbed the top seed a year ago and only lost one league game that season, Widmer expects the Northern Division IV league to be strong again.
Virginia City, which tied Carlin atop the standings only had three seniors on last year’s team, making them one of the favorites, and Widmer doesn’t think the rest are any easier.
“Wells is always a good rival, Eureka played well last year. They have a couple kids that can really throw and Virginia City and Hawthorne will be good,” he said.
The other challenge for Carlin is the schedule. Last year it had more games at home, but rotates to more road games this season.
“We just have to go out and play. It doesn’t matter where we play. We just want to be there, play the way we can and the way we know how to play,” Widmer said.