Rick Langfitt knows more about his Kodiak team at this point in the season than in most years.
That’s because he got a sneak peak of his baseball club during a four-game tournament in San Diego last week.
For the most part the veteran Kodiak coach was encouraged by what he saw, even though the team went winless.
“I think we learned that we have excellent potential to have a good season this year,” Langfitt said. “If we can play to the best of our ability, most of the time we are going to be OK.”
He was concerned with the mental aspect of the game, which led to a multitude of errors.
“The boys just have to be ready to focus,” Langfitt said. “They know. Nothing is a surprise when we talk about the things that they missed. But, they just have to be in the game at all times.”
Kodiak’s experience will play a big part in cutting down the mental mistakes. The Bears have seven seniors and 10 returning varsity letter winners from last season’s state qualifying team that finished 8-7. Langfitt said their baseball knowledge is the strength of this team.
The entire infield returns with seniors Mikel Garner (first base) Eddie Arellano Jr (shorstop) and Patrick Pickett (catcher), and juniors Dylan Kavanaugh (second base) and Alec Eastman (third base).
Seniors Raphael Matautia (centerfield) and Austin Cowley (left field) are joined by freshman Austin Frick (right field) in the outfield.
This is the lineup when senior Matthew Chavarria and sophomore Brandon Mahle are on the mound.
“When Matthew and Brandon pitches we should have a really solid defense because everybody is playing at the best position for the team,” Langfitt said.
Arellano will also start games on the bump, while the team is loaded with relievers, highlighted with closer Matautia.
On offense, Langfitt was pleased with Eastman and Frick during the four games in San Diego. The two combined to go 9 for 22. Eastman, batting out of the lead-off spot, will be key in setting the table for Langfitt’s small-ball philosophy.
“Of course they want to get the big hits,” he said. “If they are trying to get the big hits instead of trying to do what the situation calls for, that is when they get into trouble … Everybody wants to be the big bopper, but that is not what we need.”
Rounding out the roster are senior David Sweeney, juniors Michael Wilson and Josh Bezona, and sophomores Andrew Gregory, Ryan Lenon and Matthieu Sutton.
The Bears begin the Alaska portion of their schedule Friday with a doubleheader against Houston at Baranof Field. Kodiak follows that with a home doubleheader against Soldotna on Saturday. The first game of each twin bill counts towards the Southcentral Conference standings.
This year the conference brings back the conference tournament for the first time since the 2005 season. In doing so, the eight-team conference is split into two divisions. Kodiak, Kenai, Homer and Soldotna are in the South Division, while Wasilla, Colony, Houston and Palmer are in the North Division.
The conference tournament, held at Hermon Brothers Field in Palmer May 26-28, will have teams cross divisions in the first round of the single-elimination tournament. The two teams who reach the championship game earn the conference’s two berths to the state tournament.
“It is good because you have something to play for at the end of the year and at the end of the year is when everybody should be playing their best,” Langfitt said. “If you are going to take the two best teams out of the conference, it would be best to figure it out at the end of the year.
“This will eliminate any team who has one kid who can dominate from advancing based on that one kid being able to strike out half the team.”
Langfitt said he expects Kodiak to be playing in the championship game. However, he said all four teams from the north are going to be pretty good.
“You take the experience with the San Diego trip and I am real optimistic about our chances of doing real well,” he said.
Langfitt is assisted by Jeff Holden and Tim Cowley.
Mirror writer Derek Clarkston can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.