Gaston did much better in its second year under Sean Casey, winning seven games
The Gaston baseball team enters the 2012 season with two perennial Northwest League powers in their crosshairs.
'We're hoping to compete with Knappa and Portland Christian, who have usually dominated the league and who always end up (the) top 10 in the state,' Gaston coach Sean Casey says.
It will be an admittedly tall order for the Greyhounds to win a three-game series against both Knappa, which won a Class 2A/1A state championship in 2010, and Portland Christian, the three-time defending league champion and state runner-up in 2009 and 2011.
'It looks like they're going to be tough again this year, both of those teams,' Casey admits. 'But, we're hoping to compete with them and at least have a shot of, if not getting two out of three, then at least getting one out of three from them.'
Casey feels even more confident about the Hounds' chances against the rest of the Northwest League competition.
'I would probably consider it not a successful season if we don't dominant those other teams in the league, or at least win the series with all the rest of those teams,' Casey says. 'We should beat most of the other teams all three games.'
The Greyhounds look like they will be strong fundamentally this season.
'The last couple of years we've been getting stronger fundamentally,' Casey says. 'They're starting to get the hang of the game a little bit better.'
Gaston has always had a habit of starting off slow at the plate and getting the bats going as the season progresses. The Hounds are hitting better at the beginning of this season than they usually do, but they are still not where Casey would like them to be.
'We're better than in years past, but I was still hoping it would be a little bit better,' Casey says. 'We still need to do a little better job of producing runs. We're stranding runners still.'
But, led by senior shortstop and centerfielder Dusty Brown, who will bat in the No. 3 hole, Casey has reason to be hopeful that the rest of the bats in the Hounds' lineup will eventually come around.
'We've got a few guys that I'm sure will start hitting better as the season goes on,' Casey says. 'It's tough early in the season.'
The Greyhounds have struggled on limiting runs over the past few seasons. But Casey says that Gaston is stronger on defense this year and that the Hounds have a few right-handed starting pitchers in junior Levi Watkins and Casey's freshman son, Kyle Casey, who can make opponents work to put runners on base.
While Casey believes that the Hounds can have their way with most of the Northwest League and compete with Portland Christian and Knappa, he says that if Gaston is going to make the playoffs, the most important thing will be for the Hounds to play as a team.
'If they all buy into what we're preaching as far as the team concept,' Casey says, 'having to do every play, every out, concentrate the entire game, not taking any plays off, if they all buy into that, the young ones included, we should be playoff bound.'