BROOMFIELD — The coaching apple didn’t have to fall too far from the Holy Family tree.

After Marc Cowell stepped away from his duties after last spring after the Tigers’ awesome run to a 3A title, the line of potential suitors to don the managerial purple and gold was lengthy.

And boy did they line up to try and get it.

But only one name really made sense. Eric Nakayama’s ties to the school stretched back to his playing days in the early 1990s to his current role of as Director of Admissions, and he was on Cowell’s staff throughout his tenure.

“Marc has been my mentor and I worked a lot of camps when I was younger and gained a lot of baseball knowledge that way, but Marc has been a big influence and so was Steve Meyer before him,” Nakayama said. “My style is a little bit different, but I learned a lot from those guys.”

Why was the list of applicants so long? The Tigers are the clear-cut favorite to repeat with their gigantic senior class totaling 11 players. They can hit, they can field and, most importantly, they can pitch.

“I’ve been with this group for a long time and they know what is expected,” Nakayama said. “We still hold them to a high standard and I think it is an easy transition from that standpoint.”

Devlin Granberg, bound for Creighton University in Omaha next season to play baseball, knows that Nakayama is a good fit and knows that he has been embraced by the players as the right man for the job.

“He’s a great guy and he will bring a lot of energy just like coach Cowell did,” said Granberg, who is one of five baseball players on the boys basketball team that still has unfinished business next weekend at the Air Force Academy. “They have both coached here a long time and they have the same kind of ideas.

“I think we will have loose practices and I know Nak will challenge us just like coach Cowell did and for us to bring the focus every single day.”

Granberg is just one of the many tough outs in the Tigers lineup. Connor Stanley hit the big double in the state title game against Eaton last year and could be a huge table-setter for Nakayama this year. And the list goes on: Joe Coufal, Zach Dedin, Matt Erb, David Johnson, Matthew Lenzner, Jose Martinez, Chris McManus, Connor Stanley, Jacob Tinnon and Zach Trombley are all prominent seniors. Also back is junior hurler Nick Kreutzer, whose four-pitch arsenal made him the Tigers’ best pitcher by the end of last season.

“I’ll coach with the talent that we have and if we need to bunt, we’ll bunt,” Nakayama said, “and if we need to string some singles and doubles together, we’ll try and get that done too.”

Nakayama admitted his biggest challenge this year is to keep his team focused on the task at hand and not getting too far ahead of themselves.

“Marc and I have talked about that a lot through the year, that there is a fine line between and that what we talk to our kids about, just being confident, no matter the opponent,” said Nakayama, a four-year letter winner at shortstop in his day. “It doesn’t matter if it’s a practice or a game, we come with that same attitude that we are going to work and we are going to work to get better.

“I’ve especially challenged the seniors with that.”

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