Baseball team seeks retribution

Zachary DiSchiano

It was 269 days ago when the Timberwolves Baseball Team was defeated by the Plano West Wolves, the number one team in the United States. After the unpredictable and emotional play-off run last year, the Timberwolves are looking to bounce back after their heartbreaking loss to Plano West. The Timberwolves enter the season as a dark horse to win the 2009 Texas High School Baseball 5A State Championship. With six returning starters and University of Texas signee, Nathan Thornhill, junior, the team remains a valid threat. Cedar Park is projected to be one of the strongest teams in the district and after a productive offseason; the team is set and ready to shock the world again come playoff time.

“We have experience up the middle and we are also a lot faster than last year,” Connie Cochran, head coach, said. “We can go as far as our talent will allow us to go.”

“Up the middle” refers to the positions of catcher, shortstop, second base and center field. These positions are critical to the success of any team as most of the plays on defense are made in that area. It is the core of the defense and if it’s a solid area for a team, the team is probably solid. The team is adamant about winning district and even state. However, they all remind each other of the hard work they will have to put in to consistently win games. They put in hours of practice and intense training throughout the season and every practice counts.

They put in hours of practice and intense training throughout the season and every practice counts.

“We’ve gotten stronger because of our weight program over the offseason, ‘Bigger, Faster, Stronger,’” Billy Bernhard, senior pitcher, said. “Our goal is to be district champions and hopefully we’ll win each of our play-off series and win state.”

 Each  practice challenges the players to better themselves and, although an exhausting experience, it reaps its rewards. Players grow as a team during practices as they better their game. The team works consistently to improve their weaknesses as well as their strengths.

“First we work on our defense and practice plays,” Colin Raddack, junior, said. “Then we hit on the field and in the cages. After practice we still have conditioning where we run for a while.”

On game days, things are a little bit different. After a long week of intense practices the Timberwolves have to rest on game days to save up their energy.

“All we do on game days is hit off the tees, go through drills  lightly and just rest until the game starts,” Bernhard said.

When game time arrives, the team sets their focus on hustling every inning and cheering each other on. Leaving everything on the field is a slogan recognized by almost every sport ay CPHS. Effort is normally the most important factor in every game. The team that outhustles the other team wins the majority of the time. If one team is more talented than the other, but doesn’t give it everything they have, they will most likely be defeated.

On many occasions, hustle ties in with teamwork. If one player sees another player giving their all, diving, sliding, running full speed and showing other efforts, it is probable that he will do the same. Determination is contagious. Teams can have great pitching, great batting and great defense, but in the last inning it’s going to come down to who wants it more. Cedar Park has these intangibles that most coaches envy. Proof for this statement lies in last year’s play-offs: No one expected the Timberwolves to make the play-offs, let alone get so far. The team got there through their hard work and determination.

With several returning varsity players, it is easy to expect that this dedication and motivation will continue. The seniors are great role models for the juniors and their positive attitude influences the entire team. When a team’s leaders have confidence and positive attitudes, it reflects on the other players resulting in teamwork, hustle and, in most cases, a win.

“We need to stay focused the entire game and keep our composure,” Raddack said. “If we can stay calm through any situation, we will be able to persevere through them.”

There is a little uncertainty about who will be on the pitching staff this season. Last year the Timberwolves dominated offenses with consistently strong pitching from Britt Robertshaw and Nathan Thornhill. Thornhill is now throwing and will continue, but the other members of the pitching staff are still unknown.

“Pitching depth is a question we will have to answer early,” Cochran said. “You don’t replace players; you just give the next player the same opportunity the other one had and hope for the best.”

 Pitching is a key factor in every game, but is especially vital against the other strong teams in District 16-5A. Georgetown, Round Rock and McNeil consistently produce strong seasons with strong players. Round Rock has 12 listed pitchers on their roster, providing an intimidating arsenal of defense. Georgetown holds three athletes that have already committed to universities, and with nine active pitchers, they too are prepared strike-out any opposing batter.

“Georgetown and Round Rock will always be very competitive,” Cochran said. “There are so many good teams in our district.”

Cochran has been coaching at Cedar Park for three years and is aware of the talent in central Texas. The players have adapted well to his coaching style, of course winning play-off games last year and looking to repeat the strong performance this year.

“We have great kids in Cedar Park,” Cochran said. “They’re a hard working group.”

This group of athletes has also been part of a new tradition in CPHS. For the past two years, the Timberwolves have hosted training camps for middle school kids, looking to improve their game as well as help out the youngsters. The annual camp took place this year February 7. This gathering consists of batting and throwing drills, where varsity athletes teach the younger kids how to improve techniques while showing them a good time.

 On the field, Cedar Park is known for the high skill level and poise in pressure situations. Either way, they give 100% effort in everything they do, which is why they plan on taking state this year. The team’s first game is home against Westlake, February 24, at 7 PM. The team hopes that everyone will come out and support them on their journey to the state play-offs.