By Ray Hamill — Complacency should not be a problem for the Arcata Tigers this spring.
Heading into the new baseball season, there is competition for starting places across the board, with a talented group of newcomers challenging the veterans and pushing them for playing time.
“Every position is wide open,” head coach Troy Ghisetti said. “There’s not one kid on our team that can relax, because they’re all competing for starting spots.”
That all starts with a group of young standouts pushing the veteran players, and appearing ready to make an immediate impact at the high school level.
“This is the best freshmen class I’ve had in a long time,” the long-time head coach said. “The freshmen coming in are pushing these kids to get better, and the sophomores are doing a great job as well.
“Every day it’s been a battle out there.”
The Tigers got the season off to a winning start earlier this week, sweeping a doubleheader from visiting Clear Lake.
The Arcata boys looked solid throughout, with some good defense, some timely hitting, and, most of all, some top-notch pitching.
This season Ghisetti and assistant coach Bob Wallace will rely heavily on the dynamic pitching tandem of senior Jaden Gorge and junior Merick Sears, each of whom lived up to their preseason billing in the opening doubleheader.
Sears missed all of last season through injury, and the Tigers struggled to compete with the high-flying Eureka Loggers, leaving Arcata and McKinleyville in a tie for second in the Big 5.
This year their pitching duo should give the Tigers the platform to compete in what is shaping up to be a tough Big 5, but Ghisetti knows he’ll need more than that to challenge.
“We’ve got some kids that can go out on the mound and throw some innings, but to compete in the Big 5 and the North Coast Section, we’re going to have to swing the bats,” the head coach said. “And we’re going to have to put up some runs.”
Leading the way are a core group of seniors, including Gorge, who will also play shortstop.
“Gorge is going to be the leader out on the field for us,” Ghisetti said. “He’s not a vocal leader, but one that leads through his play. He’s the first one to practice and he’s the last one to leave after the game.”
Another senior, Damien Shelton, will also see some time on the mound, as will junior Asher Meadows, sophomore Xavier Finegan and a pair of impressive freshmen, Porter Price and Vincent Agilio.
Another senior, Mason Trapkus, will start in right field and, in his coach’s words, has “done a very good job for us over the last couple of year.”
Among the juniors expected to have an impact, Ian Shermer will play some third base, as well as seeing some time on the mound, while Jacob Stoker will play in the infield.
And overall, Ghisetti likes what he’s seen so far from his players.
“They are outstanding individuals that love the game, and they’re out there competing every single day,” he said.
As for the Big 5, the coach believes his team will be in the mix.
“I think this team is going to compete for the title,” Ghisetti said. “Every year our goal is to compete for the Big 5 title.
“We just need to be consistent every time we take the field. It’s going to be a tough battle.”