Great expectations

Cowboys baseball team enters season at No. 6
 
Bobby Reyes
Times Staff Writer
 
GHS Baseball — It’s been several years since the beige grass of the baseball diamond at Gunnison High School (GHS) has been visible in early March. While the red dirt was still being groomed at practice this past Friday afternoon, the Cowboys were warming up in the outfield. 
The visible field suggests warmer days, it also hints at the season ahead. 
While the excitement of the weekend loomed ahead of players Friday, their faces were painted in focus under the camouflage-colored ballcaps that had bold, capital letters spelling the word “FAMILY” on the back. 
The players’ grim demeanor made sense when you take into consideration the goal they’ve set for themselves. 
Last year, the Cowboys capped off their season with a 16-6 record. They were the Western Slope League champions and the district champions. Yet, GHS ended their season in a heartbreaking 3-0 loss to Peak to Peak in the Elite 8. 
This year, GHS enters the season with a No. 6 pre-season ranking. Sitting on top of the pre-season rankings is the returning state champion, Eaton. 
While the ranking is the highest that it’s been in years, the Cowboys refuse to allow any number limit their abilities. 
“We take it as respect from the league and the state,” head coach Tom Percival explained. “But the bottom line is that you have to show up and play.”
For GHS, they’ll be depending on their five returning seniors to show up and lead the Cowboys to another successful season. 
 
Leaders with experience
“We’ve got a great group of seniors,” Percival shared. “These guys lead by example and they have the experience.”
Returning starters for GHS will be the entire infield. Among them are seniors Colby Archuleta at catcher, Brevin Book at pitcher, Ty Percival at first base and Brady Wilson at shortstop. 
Last year, Archuleta and Wilson earned All-State honorable mentions. 
On offense, Ty Percival led the team with 35 hits and 41 runs batted in. Book tallied 37 runs. Percival successfully stole 13 bases, while Wilson stole 11. 
On defense, Book threw 74 strikeouts. He faced 258 batters and only allowed three home runs. 
As a team, the Cowboys tallied 243 runs and allowed 70. With the experience of this year’s squad, GHS looks primed to make a run further into the post-season. 
“When we went to the Elite 8 last year they had never been,” Tom Percival explained. “The experience from going last year is very important. Now they know what to expect.”
And expectations couldn’t be any higher. 
“We hope to go deeper than we did last year,” Wilson noted. “We’re just focused on taking little steps to get better and better each day.”
For Book, the experience, the dedication and the familiarity of the team will all be factors in their success.
“We’ve all been playing baseball together for a long time,” Book explained. “We’re close. As long as we’re focused on the goal and we stay together, we’ll be successful.” 
 
Swinging for the fences
“The main goal is to get back to Greeley,” Book shared. “We want to get back to where we were last year — and go further.” 
Greeley is scheduled to be the 2016 host of the state playoffs. 
The Cowboys will have an early test on their schedule this season. GHS will play No. 5 Lamar in Pueblo on April 5. 
“They’ll be a good challenge for us,” Wilson acknowledged. “Playing them will be more of what we’ll see in the playoffs.”
While the Cowboys aren’t overlooking any league games, they understand that in order to reach their ultimate goal they’ll need to test themselves at every opportunity. 
“The goal is to get better every day,” Tom Percival explained. “But the expectation every year is to compete for league championship and push for a state championship.”
After reaching the Elite 8 last year, their appetites have only grown. 
“The most ideal ending would be a state championship,” Wilson shared. “But we know we’ve got to take a lot little steps will get us there.”
The Cowboys (1-0) opened their season at Monte Vista (2-1) Tuesday. GHS dismantled the Pirates with a 14-0 victory. 
The Cowboys will host Grand Valley in a doubleheader Saturday, March 12 at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. 
 
(Bobby Reyes can be reached at 970.641.1414 or bobbyreyes@gunnisontimes.com)

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