FARMINGTON — Just 10 days removed from winning its fourth state title in five years, the Piedra Vista baseball team is looking for new ways to improve for the upcoming season.
For the first time, the Rivercats, PV's developmental team, will have two teams playing in the Connie Mack city league with the hopes of exposing the younger players to stronger competition.
The Rivercats will have their primary 18-and-under team, coached by Lars Baker, which features a mix of varsity and junior varsity players, while the 16-and-under team, coached by Clay Foster, featuring JV and C team players will step up a level from the Mickey Mantle league this year.
"We've always had three teams," Baker said of the Rivercats, who also have a 14-and-under team playing up from the Sandy Koufax league into Mickey Mantle this season. "We decided this year to push everything up and take our lumps and see if we can get better."
Baker's Rivercats squad features eight players, including six starters from the 4A championship game against Goddard.
Baker said the focus for those players will be fine tuning fundamentals while continuing to develop other aspects of their games.
"A kid like Wyatt Weaver needs to develop a third pitch to go with the knuckleball and fastball. Kyle DeWees was a sub on the varsity and he needs to learn to put the ball on the ground and use his speed," Baker said. "Every kid has something he needs to get a little better at so that our team is ready to make a run next year."
Weaver said the team will use the summer to develop a good chemistry going forward into the next high school season.
"I think it's big for the younger guys to get that Connie Mack experience," he said. "We're having some fun out here and swinging the bats freely. We're just trying to find ourselves as a team and have some fun out here."
Foster's Rivercats will have a balanced schedule of Connie Mack city league games and 16-and-under tournaments throughout the summer.
Foster said he knows the step up will be difficult, but he's looking for a good effort and energy from the players against the stronger opposition.
"The biggest thing when coaching a young group playing up like this is you want to see the effort," he said. "You try to eliminate the scoreboard. Those mistakes are going to happen and I want to see how they overcome them. We are going to be overmatched a lot in the Connie Mack league, so we'll see how we carry over when we're playing the appropriate age group. That will really be the test."
Foster said the players were all on board with playing in the Connie Mack city league and are excited for the challenge.
"It's a competitive group. There's not going to be an easy game all the way through," Foster said. "This group asked me if we could play up. This is where they want to be. They wanted to be out here with the big boys. It will help them in the long run."