Baseball season. Feels good just to say it, right?
While a true summer has yet to arrive, the high school baseball season is preparing to begin its first games, in which Homer, Kenai Central and Soldotna will find out exactly who is the top Kenai Peninsula team.
The three teams will attempt to fit into two state berths from the Northern Lights Conference. Last year, only Kenai made the cut. The Kardinals won once in three games en route to a fifth-place finish.
While the Mariners had been scheduled to open their season against the Kards today in Kenai, that game has been rescheduled until May 8.
The Mariners' opening game now will be at home May 3 against Kodiak. JV starts at 3 p.m. and varsity at 7 p.m.
Lary Kuhns returns for another season as the Mariners' coach. Kuhns was the head coach of the Mariners when the team started in 1999, and led the team to a runner-up finish at state in 2005, losing 9-6 to Sitka in 14 innings in the title game.
"We have 26 guys out, which is the most we've had in a long time," Kuhns said.
"I think we have pretty good depth with that."
Kuhns said the tentative starting lineup consists of three sophomores, four juniors and one senior — catcher Willy Deaver.
Juniors Tommy Bowe and Brian Rowe were a part of the Legion AA Twins that won a state championship last summer, and Kuhns is glad to have their experience and power on the team.
"We're a better team this year, and I'm real tickled with their attitude," Kuhns said. "We're on an up cycle. These are really good athletes with good attitudes.
"I fully expect that we'll be in the hunt come tournament time. With the pitching depth we have, and we have depth with other positions too, we can do it."
Along with Rowe at center field and Bowe at second base, junior outfielder Derek Johnson and sophomore third-baseman Zach Bynum will help the team to try to improve on its 5-4 conference record last year.
Kuhns said this year he hopes the team will feature a blend of good hitting and defensive play, and mentioned that he thinks the team has been primarily a hitting team in years past.
"We're a much faster team with the addition of some of those sophomores, and Brian Rowe is a terror on the bases," he said. "We have six or seven legitimate base runners. Speed is going to be an asset."
Kuhns has a returning coaching staff behind him this year in Mark Putney, Rich Sonnen and Steve Fuson. So far the Mariners have held practice in the high school gym, parking lot and the windy Homer Spit to prepare for their first game, but are looking to get on their home field before their first game scheduled for May 3.
The field is currently covered in snow, but Athletic Director Pam Newton hopes the Homer field will be in playable condition come game time. "Ball fields around the state are in similar condition," she said.
Play-by-play action of every game can be heard from Dave Webb on KGTL 620 AM and 100.1FM.