Having won a state title in 2010 and reached the finals in 2011, no one should have been surprised when the Holy Family baseball team made yet another impressive postseason run last year.
Despite featuring a roster heavy on underclassmen, the Tigers were one of the final four teams standing in the Class 3A playoffs before being knocked out by eventual state champion Eaton.
And after losing only three players from that squad to graduation, this year’s HFHS team once again has its sights set on playing deep into the spring.
“We’ve gotten the program to the level now that anything short of challenging for a state title is falling short of our expectations,” said head coach Marc Cowell, who is in his 10th year at the helm. “We create goals around specifically getting to that championship game every year.”
A squad that went 17-7 in 2012 while playing eight sophomores and a freshman parlayed its success into a Northern Baseball League title over the summer season. Buoyed by that championship and a long winter of work in the batting cages and weight room, several Tigers seem poised to have breakout years.
After posting terrific numbers over the summer, junior second baseman Matt Erb will be counted on to make a big impact this season. The same goes for senior Adrian Do, who was a factor last year and will be either No. 1 or No. 2 on the mound this time around. And expect to see much more of lefty hurler Austin Brown, who promises to improve by leaps and bounds from his freshman campaign.
But no player may be more crucial to the Tigers’ success than junior Devlin Granberg, if that is, he is given the chance to truly contribute with his bat. After putting up astounding numbers last season that included a .578 average, six triples and five home runs, both he and Cowell acknowledge that opposing pitchers may be unlikely to toss anything hittable his way.
“I think I’ve just got to have faith in the guys (batting) behind me,” Granberg said. “If they produce, (teams) are going to have to pitch to me.”
And with that notion in his mind, the star shortstop has spent much of his offseason working the virtue of patience at the plate into his repertoire.
“I think I only had 10 walks last season,” he said. “I want to improve that and beat my 44 runs (scored last year).
“I just want to put my team in the best position to win.”
Holy Family will have the opportunity to earn its first victory of the year when it takes on 4A Golden at home on March 18.