What a difference a year makes. The Oak Harbor High School baseball team entered the 2012 season with no returning starters; this season it welcomes eight back.
After fielding one of Wesco’s top teams in 2011, Oak Harbor, with its inexperienced lineup, dipped to 8-14 last spring. Things should improve as the Wildcats are loaded with veterans and a deep senior class this time around.
Eight of the 10 returning lettermen are seniors: Cory Cameron (outfield), David Kusnick (first base), Michael Maletto (catcher), Jack Richter (third base/pitcher), Grant Schroeder (shortstop/pitcher), Andrew Snavely (second base/pitcher), Anthony Stewart (outfield) and Austyn Walker (catcher/third base).
Richter, Schroeder and Walker earned all-league honorable mention last spring.
Walker is still recovering from a football knee injury and his contributions could be limited.
Also coming back are junior Casiano Atienza (outfield) and sophomore Brent Mertins (shortstop/pitcher).
Key newcomers, according to coach Tyson VanDam, are juniors Brandon Bailey (outfield/pitcher), Rhys Mattila (first base), Jozef Mendoza (first base) and Teddy Peterschmidt (utility/pitcher); and sophomores Clayton Doughty (outfield/first base/pitcher), Danny Wolfe (catcher/pitcher/third base) and C.J. Meders (third base).
VanDam said, “Expectations are high going into this season. We expect to finish first or second in the 3A North league and make the state tourney.”
The team’s strengths, VanDam said, are pitching depth and the seniors, who have committed a great deal of time to the program.
“We have seven pitchers that can throw strikes; that’s a nice problem to have,” VanDam said. “We do not have great overall team speed, so I would say that is our biggest weakness.”
Marysville-Pilchuck should be the toughest rival for the Western Conference 3A North crown, according to VanDam. He sees Mountlake Terrace and Shorewood as the powers in the South.
Oak Harbor plays three nonleague games next week, opening at 4 p.m. Tuesday, March 12, in Arlington. Then comes two home games: Bellingham at 4 p.m. Thursday and Sehome at 1 p.m. Saturday.