SANDPOINT — If confidence starts at the top, the Bulldog baseball team could be in for a strong season under first year coach Chase Tigert.
With an ace left hander, a deep pitching staff, and a lineup without many holes, the Bulldogs enter the 2017 season with high hopes.
Tigert, a former college pitcher and pro prospect with some college coaching experience under his belt, enters his first season as a high school coach brimming with confidence.
“We’re going to state this year. We’re going to have a winning record,” said Tigert of the team’s goals. “I believe this team can win it all this year. I’m setting the bar high for these guys.”
If there is a state run in store for the Bulldogs, who went 9-15 last season before losing 2-1 to eventual 4A state finalist Middleton in a play-in game, senior ace pitcher and outfielder Talon Dewey could play a big role.
The 6-foot-2 lefty anchors a deep rotation, locating a mid-80s fastball setting the tone for the pitching staff with a Bulldog attitude.
“I’m looking for big things from Talon,” admitted Tigert, who used to hit mid-90s as a pro prospect and likes how Dewey attacks the hitters, including striking out eight West Valley hitters in five innings in the opener. “He goes after them, not around, and gives you everything he has every day.”
The No. 2 starter will be senior Sydney Bottomley, who will be joined in a rotation by lefty Garrett Connolly, Thomas Riley, Wes Holland and Tyrone Larson, one of the deepest staffs the Bulldogs have had in years.
Having two starters able to go five strong every time out is a plus for Tigert,
“Sydney has good tilt, pounds the zone, good feel for his pitches,” described Tigert. “I’m looking for him to go deep in games.”
Leading the offense will be the power bat of 6-foot-5, 260 pound junior Trey Flint, who smashed a home run and triple in the opener against West Valley, which may just be a sign of things to come for the first baseman.
It’s been said by big league managers that the ball just sounds different coming off certain hitter’s bats, and Flint is one of those hitters, possessing some serious pop in his bat.
“His hands are quick. The ball explodes off his bat,” praised Tigert. “I’ve seen a lot of baseball, and the way the ball comes off his bat is special.”
Senior Caleb Edlund brings a lot of varsity experience to the field, along with a smooth swing and the ability to be a line drive machine to all parts of the field.
Juniors Thomas Riley and Jacob Cometto will set the table from the top of the order, sophomore Alex Stockton brings another power bat to the lineup and senior catcher Nick Holland is the lone returning All-IEL player as the starting catcher.
The quality depth will be utilized by Tigert, who like any good manager knows full well the value of a deep bench.
“I’m going to lean on everybody. We’ve got a really strong team, there’s not a weak link on the team,” he said. “We’re all going to have to execute our roles.”
It’s been a tough early start to the season, as the Bulldogs have been relegated to practicing in-doors with no fields ready for play yet.
It could easily be a negative, but Tigert chooses to make the most of it, and come May, the mental toughness could pay off under sunny skies.
“They’re tenacious. We do an inside practice and they just bust it and put forth all the effort. Using every opportunity to improve; that’s all we can ask of them,” said Tigert. “This is a special team. We put up a united front. They come out and battle, play together, feed off the energy of each other.”
Helping out as assistant coaches this season are Ricky Klontz, a member of Sandpoint’s lone state championship baseball team more than a decade ago, former Bulldog player and All-American at Occidental College Jason Thielbahr and JV coach Matt Thompson, who was a varsity pitching coach last season.
Dewey was part of that one-run loss in the play-in game to Middleton last season, and feels like this team has a shot to push past that point and get to state.
“We have fun,” he said. “We can slow things down when we need, when things are going too fast we can get back into a groove.”