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Plenty of new faces for Raider baseball

Members of the Hudson baseball team loosen up on the school's new turf practice field Thursday, March 29. Bob Burrows / RiverTown Multimedia

After graduating 11 seniors from last year's squad, there will be a lot of new faces on the field for the Raider baseball team this season.

One face that isn't new, albeit is in a new position, is head coach Trevor Peck.

Peck, an assistant under Jason Nell in 2017, begins his first season at the helm after replacing Nell during the offseason.

"It helped to get a feel for the players," Peck said about serving as varsity assistant coach last year. "It's nice because we have a returning coaching staff. We have a new JV2 coach but everyone else is returning. We had a big senior class last year so we graduated a lot, so we have a pretty heavy junior dominated team this year which is nice because I can talk to the other JV coaches and get their fill on everything."

Peck, a second-year social studies teacher at Hudson High School, has been using every available space at the high school to prepare the Raiders for the upcoming season, including sharing the school's new turf practice field with Hudson's softball and girls' soccer teams last Thursday, March 29.

"We're just doing the best we can with limited space," he said. "Parking lots, out here, in the gym, all over."

The Raiders return just six players from a year ago, including 2017 co-captain Max Stubbendick. Other seniors include Jack Klementz, Elijah Rude, Garrett Huhn, Landon Baillargeon and Mason Triebold. Peck said this year's team will include a large junior class.

"So far those seniors have taken on more of a leadership role naturally," he said. "They're a tight-knit group, especially that big junior class who has been playing together a long time. I really think that's going to be a benefit. They know each other, their potential, what they can do on the field, and they just really trust in each other and are working hard for each other."

Peck said the lingering winter weather, complicated by a fresh blanket of snow earlier this week, has made it difficult to prepare for the season. The Raiders' first two games-- scheduled for Monday, April 2, at Bloomington Jefferson and Friday, April 6, at Centennial, have already been postponed while their Saturday, April 7 game at Mahtomedi and Big Rivers Conference opener Tuesday, April 10, at River Falls look dicey if you believe the weather forecast.

Peck said no matter when the Raiders play their first game, he expects them to be ready.

"It's tough to replicate the game when you can't get on a field," he said. "We're doing the best we can to make game-like situations for these guys. But my number one thing is, if they're playing tough and they're playing smart, even if they make mistakes, that's to be expected in the first couple of games of the season. But if they're going 100 percent and they're mentally tough, we'll be alright."

Peck said so far in practice the Raiders have been keeping things simple.

"We're pretty blessed here," he said. "The guys in our program are intelligent to begin with; they're a smart group of guys. We teach them to be aggressive, we teach them to look for those little details. One of the things we base our whole program on is, we really try to keep it simple for the guys; the structure and everything we do in the field or at bat. But we trust the athleticism and intelligence of our players and we know that they can make those plays on their own. It's really just giving them the opportunity to use the skills that they have."

The 2017 Raiders posted an overall record of 6-15 while going 5-6 in the Big Rivers Conference. Despite a crop of new faces, Peck said he believes the team will be competitive in the BRC this season.

"It's always a tough baseball conference," he noted. "(The) Eau Claire teams are always tough, Chippewa is tough, River Falls is always a good program. But I think we'll be competitive. I think last year we didn't perform as well as we had hoped so we have a lot to prove this year. No one is going to give us anything. It's kind of nice in a sense because really our future is wide open. No one is expecting a lot from us, so I think we'll be able to surprise a lot of teams with the talent that we have, the toughness that we have and the hard work that we bring."

Bob Burrows
Bob Burrows has been sports editor at the River Falls Journal since 1996 and at the Hudson Star-Observer since 2009. Prior to joining the Journal, Burrows served as sports editor with Ledger Publications in Balsam Lake, Wis. A native of Bayonne, N.J. and a U.S. Navy veteran, Burrows attended Marquette University before completing his studies at UW-River Falls in 1992.
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