It promises to be an exciting season for the Petaluma High School baseball team — maybe too exciting.
Petaluma's Trojans should have the pitching and defense to stay with any of the talented teams on their schedule. Their trouble is that they may not have enough top-to-bottom hitting to blow anyone away. The combination should make for some fun, but tense, diamond confrontations.
"We pride ourselves on pitching and defense," says Petaluma coach Paul Cochrun. As for the offense, the coach says his players have to be disciplined. "We need to find a way to have a good two-strike approach," he says. "There are a lot of things you can do at the plate to control the variables. We have to learn to do those things. We have to make sure we're swinging at good pitches."
Petaluma has nine seniors on this season's team. Of that number, five saw significant playing time last season when Petaluma closed with a flourish on a 17-12 campaign that included a run to the Sonoma County League Tournament title and two wins in the North Coast Section playoffs.
The pitching should be very solid. Senior Scott Hilbert pitched very well at the season's end last year and has been dominant in his first two starts this year. He threw four strong two-hit innings in a 3-1 win over Los Lomas and came back with a three-hit, route-going effort in a 1-0 loss to Maria Carrillo.
"He worked hard in the off season and came out ready to go," says Cochrun. "He takes pride in his work ethic."
Also returning is senior Jaymes Potts. He had a 3-1 record with a 1.68 earned run average and was instrumental in helping the Trojans win the SCL Tournament last season.
Behind the two veterans, Cochrun can chose from a variety of potentially strong mound candidates with Cameron Meyers, Blake Patrick, Chase Dunbar and sophomore Hunter Williams all in the mix.
Dante DelPrete will offer a left-handed change of pace to the predominantly right-handed pitching corps.
Austin (Bubba) Thomason takes over behind the plate and is expected to be the next in a long succession of outstanding Petaluma catchers such as professional players Konrad Schmidt and Chadd Krist, current Santa Rosa Junior College receiver Spencer Neve and last season's standout Daniel Comstock.
Not only is Thomason a solid receiver with a strong arm, but he has developed into one of the team's top hitters, hitting in the No. 3 spot in the batting order.
Dunbar will serve as the back-up catcher.
The make up of the infield will vary depending on who is on the mound.
Hilbert, Potts and Williams will all get a chance at first base. All are being counted on to provide important bats in the Petaluma lineup.
Meyers is expected to play second base, with Wyatt Painter in line for playing time and Patrick a possibility, although he will probably spend much of his time at shortstop. Patrick hit a solid .294 last season with eight doubles.
Senior Tommy Quinn is set at third base, although he can also play shortstop when Blake is not available. He looks to have a much improved bat over last season.