By Ray Hamill — The local 2022 baseball season officially gets under way this week when College of the Redwoods welcomes Mendocino College to town for a three-game weekend series.
And after back-to-back shortened seasons caused by the pandemic, head coach Andrew Aiello and his players are glad to be back and looking forward to the new season.
“We’re excited to get back to a somewhat normal season,” Aiello said. “We’re trying to put our best foot forward, not just as a team but as a baseball program.”
The players have been practicing for much of the past two weeks, with a handful of returners and several newcomers on the 28-man roster.
“They look good,” Aiello said. “I think the guys are coming together. We’ve got a good group of locals and a good group of guys coming in and they’re coming together real well.
“They’ve really started to mesh well and you can kind of see those relationships building at practice.”
One returning player the team will rely on this season is pitcher Chandler Jones, who will be one of the starters this weekend.
“He’s a lot more consistent on mound,” the head coach said of the experienced Jones.
Good things are also expected out of a couple of local players, former Arcata Tiger Mason Nichols and former Fortuna Husky Regan Nyberg.
“Mason Nichols is a strong kid with a lot of pop,” Aiello said. “He’s definitely a baseball player. He likes to work hard and he’s a great teammate so far.”
Nichols will play infield and is expected to see time at second base, shortstop and third base, while the speedy Nyberg will see time in both the outfield and infield.
“He’s going to be a utility guy,” Aiello said of the versatile Fortuna graduate. “He’s a strong kid pound for pound and he can flat out fly.”
Aiello, who took over from Brad Morgan in the fall of 2020, is in his first full season with the program and believes this year’s team features quality starters and decent depth.
He’s looking to build a program that plays fundamentally sound baseball and is hoping to begin setting that tone against Mendocino.
“I think what we’re looking for (this weekend) is to kind of do things the right way,” he said. “We’re trying to teach them to play the game the right way and raise our baseball IQ from the No. 1 guy to the last guy in the dugout. We’re trying to execute the little things.”
The weekend series gets under way with a doubleheader on Friday and concludes with a single game on Saturday.
First pitch is set for 1:30 p.m. on Friday and noon on Saturday and the games will be played at Bomber Field in Eureka after the team put in a lot of work on the field this past offseason.