As a junior, Jason Mosher pitched a total a 6.2 innings for the Moffat County High School baseball team. This year he is considered the team's top pitcher, but he'll have a lot of help.
"We graduated our pitching staff," said coach Scott Parker. "It will be a different-look rotation for us this year."
The Bulldogs graduated six seniors who played regularly, three of whom were starting pitchers. The team depended on those starters to throw at least five innings every time out last year. This year's pitching scheme is expected to be less dependent on one arm every time out.
"We are going to throw a lot of different looks at teams from the mound during a game," Mosher said. "Everyone on our staff has their own style to offer."
A pitching-by-committee approach is one of several adjustments Parker has made for a team with limited varsity experience.
"We've got some guys who are going to have to prove themselves," Parker said. "They played well for us in the summer and it's time to step up."
The Bulldogs played 35 games during the summer. That's twice as many as in the high school season. Parker thinks the numbers of underclassmen on the team reflects the chance to play in the summer.
"Giving kids an opportunity to get to play has kept the interest up," Parker said. "We had guys come check it out in the summer or in the weight room after school in the fall and they decided to stay involved."
The team started with 31 guys; 23 of them underclassmen.
"It's encouraging to see so many underclassmen out," senior Nick Goodenow said. "It puts some pressure on us to perform because our spot isn't safe."
Goodenow earned his spot last year.
He worked his way up the batting order to become a first-team Western Slope League player.
He started the season batting either in the seventh or eighth spots. He finished batting in the top five spots with a .444 batting average.
Jared Lowther is the other returning Bulldog who played a consistent role in last year's state playoff team.
Lowther and Mosher were the middle infield for last year's team. There were times when hitting a ball toward the middle of the Bulldogs' infield was an opponents' best chance to get a hit.
"Those guys just didn't get enough reps last year," Parker said. "Errors have been minimal so far this year."
"There should be a lot fewer errors up the middle," he said. "Not only did we have reps in the summer but we're outside earlier this year."
Other guys who have emerged early are senior Jodi Moncrief and senior Barrett Durham. They will be the corners of the infield with Moncrief at first and Durham at third.
"Both of those guys have been hitting the ball well early," Parker said.
With 23 underclassmen fighting for spots, Parker expects to see some of his young guys surprise some people.
"We have a lot of kids who have the desire to be better," he said. "It is a healthy atmosphere to have competition every day for almost every position."
A top position in the conference is what the Bulldogs are aiming for.
Delta is the preseason favorite. They return nearly everybody from a state-playoff team and are ranked third in the state in preseason polls. Rifle and Palisade graduated some key players but still expect to be top contenders as well.
"I read Steamboat thinks they have the best team in years too," Parker said. "It is going to be tight up top."
The top four Western Slope teams earn a spot into the 32-team state bracket in May.
The Bulldogs first scheduled home game is March 20 against Summit. This weekend they will be in Fort Morgan for a tournament.
David Pressgrove can be reached at 970-824-7031 ext 211 or firstname.lastname@example.org