After winning the first Mount Hood Conference championship since 2000 last season, Sandy baseball coach Garett Luebbert knows he has expectations higher than ever before for his young squad.

'I set my team's goals higher every season and we want to do something that has never been done before,' Luebbert said recently in his office. 'Last season we wanted to win league and did, this year we want to aim higher than that.'

The Pioneers won 12 straight games last season to win the league title and a first round playoff game before falling in the second round and finish the season 15-3.

'No body expected a 12 game winning streak last year,' Luebbert said. 'But about mid-way through league play we knew we had a strong team with good chemistry.'

Entering the 2008 season, Luebbert has a young team with only two returning starters from last years leage champs. Jordan Elliot, who was honorable mention all state last year and Tommy D'Aboy return to lead the Pioneers into the season.

Elliot hit .441 with 30 runs batted in and 11 doubles to lead the Pioneers. D'Aboy, who was a second team all-league selection last year, hit .338 with 16 rbi's and a .537 on base percentage.

The Pioneers start this season with six seniors, five juniors, 15 sophomores and 18 freshman all fighting for playing time.

'You never know how good your team, especially your young guys, will produce until you get out on the field,' Luebbert said. 'This season, more than others, I am using pre-season to figure who plays and where.'

'Expectations change every year, (the league) coaches have their preseason expectations but I try not to talk about it until we start league play,' Leuberrt said. 'We have lots of guys that have played well (early this season) so it is making my job harder is trying to figure who plays where.'

Rerurning players from last season's roster are Spencer Rydman (second base) and cathers Matt Rees and Matt Spanier. Rees and Spaner will split time behind the plate and both will be expected to get hits. Those three, in limited time last year, hit a combined .265 (9 for 34).

'(Rees) has been injured so he may not go all year behind the plate which makes having (Spanier) even better,' Luebbert said. '(Spanier) was out most of last year with a broken arm so to have two catchers is great.'

Last season's starting junior varsity third-baseman, senior Trapper Fegel will jump to varisty and will also pitch for the Pioneers. Junior Trystn Stencil returns as a starting pitcher and has good command of his pitches. Stencil, also a left handed hitter, will be very versatile for the Pioneers playing many innings in the outfield.

'Trysten is one of the better athletes in the junior class and will play in the outfield, first-base and pitch,' Luebbert said. 'With three arms (Stencil, D'Aboy and Fegel) will give me a lot of opportunities to be deeper than last year.'

This season, the Mount Hood Conference is wide open, with every team capable of winning the conference. Centennial is the early favorite, but Hood River, Central Catholic, David Douglas, Barlow, Gresham and Reynolds all have strong teams.

'Anyone can beat anyone this year,' Luebbert said. The parity is amazing and deep in the entire league and I could see first and last place separated by only a game or two at the end of the season.'

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