Bulldogs excited to be playing ball again in 2021

Sophomore Parker Sanders takes a swing at a pitch in batting practice thrown by Coach Max Sanders last week. Behind, teammates wait for contact to run bases.

GUNNISON—Baseball is back.

It’s something people across the country celebrate every March, but to Gunnison Valley and other high school teams across the nation, it means much more this year.

“I’m excited,” Coach Max Sanders said. “I know our kids are because they didn’t get [a season] last year.”

Entering his second season as head coach, Sanders pointed out the strange statistic that he only had one win under his belt after last year. The team only played one game against Milford, winning 12-5, so he also could have boasted about entering 2021 undefeated.

After only two seniors graduated last year, who were Jaxton Vincent and Braxon Sylvester, seven players this year belong to the class of 2021. Six of them started in the only game last year.

The coaches are setting the team’s sights high this year. They have plenty of reason to do so.

“I am not worried about our defense this year,” Sanders said definitively, speaking especially from a pitching standpoint. “I truly believe we are one of the best in the state.”

The most obvious preseason standout on the team is senior Janzen Keisel, who is expected to attract scouts from professional organizations to watch him pitch. Historically, his pitching arsenal has included a mid-90s fastball and off-speed pitches most high schoolers do not have. He will play shortstop when not on the mound.

Starting at catcher, Sanders said senior Creed Mogle “brings out the best” of Keisel and is a defensive standout in his own right. Mogle is also the second pitcher in the rotation, which will create opportunities for sophomore Colter King to fill in at catcher.

Sanders said on offense, he expected fast runners throughout the Bulldog lineup to put pressure on defenses by putting the ball in play frequently. Their speed can stretch would-be singles into doubles, and some more powerful hitters in the middle of the lineup can clean up the bases, he said.

Even in a normal year, “it’s really hard to gauge where people are in the first week,” according to the coach, which is truer than usual this year since so few games occurred last year.

The season opener was yesterday at 5A Timpview. Starting tomorrow on the road again, the team will play regional rival Millard. Sanders said he recalled the Eagles as “pretty good” in a “scrappy” way.

The preseason was short, with just a week separating tryouts and the first game. So the coaches have been running practices designed to get the players back in the rhythm of play.

“My hope is that during practice we’ve done a good enough job that in games our kids can coach themselves” Sanders said.

Next Tuesday, they will host Millard for the season home opener.