PINE GROVE - With all but two players returning from a team that finished 14-14 and lost in a West Virginia Class A sectional final, Valley baseball coach Jim West, who is entering his 10th season, likes what he's been seeing.
''We've got a lot of experience back,'' West said, noting that he and first-year assistant Lance Binegar are cautiously optimistic. ''Our goal is to have a winning season, which we feel confident we can do that.
''We know we have a chance to win every game.''
Not unlike any other team, the Lumberjacks' fortunes ride on a pitching staff that goes five deep. The top two are junior Brandon Stoneking and senior Albert McGuane. Petey Shaw is a sophomore who will help in this area, as are junior Tristin Kocher and senior Tyler Hayes.
''Stoneking and McGuane are going to go most of the time, if possible,'' West said. ''There may be a few others, but those are experienced.
''We didn't lose any pitching.''
The catching position is a key one for Valley, having lost graduated four-year starter Drew Wade. Looking to fill the void are junior Chase West or Kocher. Whichever one is behind the plate, the other will be in left field.
McGuane or Shaw will man first base, while sophomore Peyton Palmer gets the first shot at a second base position that could also see his cousin, junior Caleb Palmer, get reps.
Hayes, Stoneking or freshman Tolton Ring, brother of Hunter Ring who spent four years in center field for the Lumberjacks, will play shortstop. Brock Stackpole, a senior, in penciled in at third base, but freshman Dusty Lowe is also working there.
Calling the shots from center field most likely will be senior Colin Bates, though he's being pushed by junior Gunner Knotts. Hayden Lancaster, a sophomore, and classmate Taylor Bates battled for the right-field job. Sophomore Michael Roe is looking for time in left.
''When I first got here we used to be horrible - embarrassing,'' West said. ''And when I first got here I didn't know how to coach. I still treated it like Little League.
''But I have changed the way I coach and have seen a big change in the attitudes of the kids, which is real big.''