Atascadero Baseball Looking To Start Where They Finished
The Atascadero Greyhounds were the final team standing in the Central Coast a year ago when they went toe-to-toe with Bakersfield-Highland in the CIF Central Section Division 3 Championship game and came up short 3-0. Last year the Hounds did say goodbye to two of their top pitchers and bats in Cade VanAllen and Evyn Lade after the season but Atascadero has reloaded this offseason and is poised to make a run at the Mountain League with a deep bullpen and solid defense.
While Atascadero’s season ended in the CIF-CS Championship game the journey to get there anything but glamorous as the team came together early in the season. The Hounds opened the year with four straight losses and were 1-9 throughout their first ten games but never panicked. Davis preaches the importance of mental toughness each and every day and like a sword in the fire the Greyhounds forged their greatest weapon, mental toughness, which is what lead them through the post season.
This year, with a full offseason under his belt, Davis can already see the difference in this year’s team.
“I think last year, when you are a new coach and you are trying to establish a different culture and a different kind of plan out there, it takes a while,” Davis said. “I that showed, and the only difference I see this year is that we are a little bit further ahead, that doesn’t mean that we are better than we were last year, it’s just mentally, physically we are better off than we were last year.”
Part of what makes the Hounds run to a league title so difficult is the stacked deck in front of them that is the Mountain League. While the Greyhounds are currently in Division 3 and finished as the second best team in the division, their own league is full of Division 1 and Division 2 teams in San Luis Obispo, Righetti, Arroyo Grande and Paso Robles.
In order to prepare for their league season and the playoffs that follow, Atascadero and Davis have beefed up their preseason schedule and will play some of the best teams in the Central Section.
“If you want to get to the end, so to speak, then you have to play people that are going to test you. Making my preseason as tough as possible was kind of the direction. Having Edison, El Diamante, Stockdale and all these Division 1 and Division 2 teams in front of you, that’s the way I think to get us better for our league,” Davis said. “I want my guys to see the best pitching out there. I want us to pitch against the best batters out there so that we are getting the best quality teams so that we know where we need to be and where we stack up to be able to be successful.”
Atascadero entered the season with a young team last year but begin this year full of seniors and return their defensive anchors in catcher Gavin Martinez and second baseman Taylor Hedger, who has moved over to shortstop for his senior campaign.
The Greyhounds also return their biggest bat and most reliable arm from a year ago in Justin Vose who will lead a group of starting pitchers in Coleby Stokes, Tyler Chapman, Anthony Cannavino, Will Shoemaker, Lucas Neate and Westly Cooper that could feature as many as five lefty arms this year.
“I feel like we are really coming in where we left off last year,” Vose said in an interview Wednesday. “ Our guys from last year, I felt, didn’t get enough reps in the offseason and we were all kind of dry the first couple games but this year everyone has been coming out and we got a bunch of reps in summer ball and fall ball.”
The baseball season officially starts on January 21 for Atascadero this year but the seniors have been leading the team and putting in the work all offseason. Reaching the mountain top last year and coming up just short ignited a fire under the team that has been burning since May.
“That was a tough loss — it was an awesome ride that the team had last year — having it end like that though left a bitter taste in our mouths,” Martinez said. “We did something huge and that is great but this whole off-season has been just, almost everyday coming out here and I see all my team out here with the same exact hunger and wanting to stay on the same page as last year.”
Atascadero will open their treacherous preseason schedule next week when they host Edison on Tuesday and travel to Stockdale on Thursday.