By GERRY STEELE
Baker is the three-time Greater Oregon League baseball champion. Now, the Bulldogs want a fourth straight.
"Our goal is a fourth straight championship," said Baker coach Dan Blankenship.
"We've got three straight, and have been to the playoffs four straight years."
Last season, the Bulldogs finished 23-4 and were top-ranked in the Class 4A rankings before bowing to Astoria 15-3 in the semifinals.
Blankenship said gaining the GOL crown will be a little more challenging than in past seasons.
"I think this will be a real interesting year," he said. "The past couple of years we pretty much knew what we had going in. This year we've got mostly unknowns. It should make it one of our more exciting years, because of the unknowns."
The Bulldogs return just three players who saw a great deal of action a year ago.
Seniors Sam Averett and Colten Richards, and junior Dillon Blankenship are those players.
Coach Blankenship said Averett will see action on the mound and in the middle infield - second base or shortstop.
Richards returns as the Bulldogs starting catcher.
Blankenship will anchor the infield at shortstop and could see action as the Bulldogs' closer out of the bullpen.
Two other juniors - Braden Phillips and Darren Dolby - saw limited varsity action last season.
Phillips, a left-hander, will pitch and play first base.
Dolby is penciled in in center field.
Five other juniors, and a like number of sophomores, make up the remaining varsity spots.
Juniors Kody Younger, Tyler Talbot, Collin Hessel, Dan Stinson and Josh Rodli join sophomores Nate Baeth, Caleb Custer, Mason Cline, Jake Grammon and Chace Dixon.
Younger, Talbot, Baeth, Custer and Cline all could see time on the mound.
"We have a long way to go," Blankenship said.
"We still have a lot of positions up for grabs.
"We need to have some of those younger pitchers step up, change some speed and throw strikes," he said.
Several of the younger players also may split time between varsity and junior varsity.
"Right now our biggest strength is our work ethic," Blankenship said.
"We saw that a week or two into summer ball last year. These kids have just continued to build on that ethic."
Blankenship said the GOL could be up for grabs.
He said Ontario returns several key players including its top two pitchers. La Grande should also challenge, and, as usual, Mac-Hi is an unknown.