Gaston struggled last year, but the Hounds return most of their roster in 2011

Things might not have gone exactly how rookie head coach Sean Casey had expected when he took over the Gaston High School baseball program last spring.

'It was kind of eye-opening seeing how far behind the guys were as far as game knowledge goes - introducing new plays or strategies most players would know when they get to high school,' Casey said. 'They never heard of it, never had a coach tell them stuff like that before. They didn't really have any concept of a lot of the strategies.'

The Greyhounds opened their 2010 campaign with a 6-4 victory against Vernonia, but youth and inexperience set in after that and Gaston dropped its remaining 20 games - including all 15 Northwest League matchups.

'We were starting to pick up on it. The problem was our schedule was set up to where the teams we would have beaten if we played them at the end of the season, we played right off the bat,' Casey said. 'The last six or so games of the season were against teams that ended up being third in the state and first in the state.'

This season, Gaston could be on the rise, as the Greyhounds return most of their roster, which Casey said has pumped up some of his players.

'I think the chemistry of the group this year is a little bit better,' he said. 'They're young, they know that we're not losing anybody. They're kind of excited about that.

'The group wants to make a push to try to make it to playoffs this year. That's kind of our team goal.'

With pieces falling into place, Casey let his squad in on his own personal goal: making the postseason. The rest of the Greyhounds jumped on board, setting their targets on the playoffs.

'I know it's going to be a long shot, but if we can at least get to the first round, it would be a great experience for them in the years forward, knowing that we're going to get better and not lose anybody,' Casey said. 'If they can at least get there, it'll help them next year.'

Gaston, however, still has a noticeable hole. Although the Greyhounds have some experience playing with each other, they still lack a certain swagger. To gain that level of confidence, Casey said his team needs to taste victory.

'I think they're not really going to get that until we get some wins under our belts,' he said. 'It might be a little ways down the road before we get any, considering we have pretty tough games right away. I think the biggest thing is just going to be getting them a little bit of success so they can get some confidence.'

One thing that could spark a fire inside the Greyhounds comes at the plate. Casey said that right now, Gaston is struggling to spray the field with hits. If that problem is resolved, many others could follow suit.

The Greyhounds opened the season with three straight losses last week, but they can begin to turn things around this week with a non-league doubleheader against Gervais, followed by the start of league play next Tuesday against Knappa.

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