HARTLAND — It’s been nearly 10 months since Brett Oliver’s single in the bottom of the 10th gave the Hartland baseball team its first state championship.
Tuesday, the Eagles are scheduled to begin their quest to win another title, when they travel to Canton for their season opener.
“We’ve been waiting for the weather to break so we can get some consistency going,” Hartland coach Brian Morrison said. “The players have been working hard, but they’re excited to get outside and play some games, and so are we as coaches.”
The Eagles only lost four players, including Oliver, to graduation, and John Baker, who pitched all 10 innings in last year’s title game, says he’s ready to play.
“Working in the offseason and practicing with the team, everyone looks good,” he said Monday. “It will be fun to see what happens (Tuesday).”
The forecast calls for sunshine and cold, with a high around 40. But those are conditions that anyone who competes in the spring has learned to contend with.
“You usually dress in two layers,” junior Jack Slavin said. “You have to keep warm and keep moving.”
“The lucky thing is that it’s only one game,” Morrison said. “And they’re kids. They want to play anyway. We’re not going to risk anything if it’s too cold. But it’s better, when it’s cold, to play just one game than be sitting for two.”
The Eagles, from Morrison on down, have had the same focus.
“The expectations here are to work hard, play for your teammates and try to be better at the end of the year than at the beginning,” he said. “We do that and we’ll see what happens.”
Hartland has its two top starters, Baker and Nathan Lohmeier, returning, along with its entire infield.
“We have a lot expected of us this year,” Baker said. “But we’ll keep pushing and trying to do our best throughout the year, and see what we can do.”
Slavin, a football player, has a bit of that mentality when asked the importance of today’s opener.
“The first game is a big game because it sets the tone for the rest of the season,” he said. “It’s always a big one.”
Morrison, a former football coach, sees the opener in a different way
“It’s just fun to get out there,” he said as the Eagles practiced in the Hartland field house on Monday. “The whole career is a process. The whole season’s a process, too. (Tuesday) is just the beginning.”