The Ridgerunner baseball program for ’09 might be a work in progress for the early part of the season but should begin to peak just in time for the playoffs.

“Our goals are lot bigger than playing well on March 3rd (opening day),” said GHS Baseball Head Coach Bret Bouher.

“If you look at the depth chart we drew up at the end of summer ball- who’s coming back, who’s playing where- we have four to six positions where guys (were not) here because they (were) participating in other sports,” Bouher said about the opening week of the season. “There’s no doubt that we (began) shorthanded.”

The latecomers to the team saw game time before any extensive practice drills.

“We’ll just hit the field running and they’ll play their way into it,” Bouher said. “It may be April 1st before we really look like we’re playing at the level that we had hoped to be at on March 1st.”

Bouher, a veteran state championship-winning coach and a GHS alum who was an All-State pitcher and quarterback, and assistant coach Casey Brown, a veteran of the Houston Astros system and OU baseball, will be looking to fit some new players into some old roles for the Ridgerunner club this season as graduation has taken a toll.

“We lost some guys who had carried a lot of innings the last few years,” Bouher said. “And we lost quite a few players who had played a lot of games here at Grove. When we step on the field we’ll have a new catcher, a new first baseman, a new second baseman, a new shortstop, a new third baseman, and a new center fielder. So, we’re talking about re-building the whole squad.”

The Ridgerunners have four pitchers they are looking at for their regular rotation.

“T.J. Griffith is a senior and he’s got a chance to really help us on the mound,” Bouher said. “Tyler Crossley (sophomore) is going to get a chance to throw quite a bit.

“Michael Hudgens is a senior that didn’t get to play last year because he had a wrist operation after a football injury. He’s a guy we’re counting on to give us some innings,” Bouher said.

“Tyler Spychalski (senior) threw quite a bit last year for us,” Bouher said. “We’ll try to get him in shape (from basketball) as quick as we can.”

The varsity baseball season is a long one; district championship competition doesn’t begin until May 1st, so the Ridgerunners have time on their side as well as talented players and coaches ready to put in the hard work necessary to maintain a successful program such as the one at GHS.

Despite the late start and the growing pains there are plenty of talented players in the red and white this year although Bouher knows it will take a little bit of time to develop it.

“We’ll just have to play our way into it,” Bouher said. “There’s no doubt that we’ll have some people that can do some things. But how long will it take them to get the speed of the game? You can take batting practice all day in the batting cage but it’s not the same. How many ground balls can you take in practice? It’s not the same.”