It is not by chance that the Oakdale High baseball team has continued its stranglehold on its Valley Oak League foes and the program is looking to continue its dominance as they bring the 2009 summer season to a close.
Oakdale wrapped up a two-month schedule, which had the team competing in several tournaments and double-header contests over the past 60 days in hopes of strengthening one of the Central Valley’s more successful baseball programs.
Oakdale made good on the defense of its back-to-back VOL titles, bringing home its third title in three years with another easy jaunt over the rest of the VOL during the 2009 campaign. The Mustangs closed the season without a league loss in 2009, but had one victory stripped away by a forfeit loss to Sonora.
The Mustangs will lose the services of seven players for their 2010 title defense, but will have a large pool to pull from as the squad opens up next season.
“There were over 30 kids who signed up from the junior high level,” Oakdale assistant coach Joe Peterson said. “These kids make up the incoming class for Oakdale High and the way they played together for the first time was unbelievable.”
The Mustangs had three squads (freshman, JV and varsity) throughout the summer campaign and will go into next year’s season with complete squads on all three levels.
The incoming group proved to be the most energetic, looking to pave a way onto the radar of a program that has had little trouble amassing league and Sac-Joaquin Section championships since the 2007 season.
This summer’s freshman group will likely form the majority of the Oakdale High freshman team and could very well likely have major contributors to the JV and varsity staffs.
“This group really just bought in,” Peterson said. “Each day they really tried their best and proved to be the highlight of the summer for me. The enthusiasm that these kids showed and the pride.
“And they’re not even in Oakdale High yet.”
Oakdale will have to replace some quality talent with the departure of two-time VOL MVP Justin Jones to graduation, making each spot on the varsity squad a prized possession several players will be fighting for.
Jones was a key component for Oakdale and not just on the mound, so his loss coupled with that of Vince Helms, Eddie McGrath, Dante Major and another two-year starter Logan Bruce, many slots in the lineup card are virtually up for grabs.
The summer action was not just a reason for these players to hang out in the 100-degree heat and look busy, this was the first opportunity for the coaching staff to see what they’ll be working with.
“The goal is to teach them how we coach and play baseball at the varsity level,” Peterson said. “We have three teams with over 70 players; we graduated seven kids, so out of those 70-plus kids we’re trying to get 12 or 13 kids who can play baseball at the varsity level.”
Oakdale will undoubtedly have a nice advantage with all-VOL pitcher Nick VanderTuig returning, but even in the VOL it takes more than one pitcher a week to bring home a championship.
“The unproven thing is who is going to be the starter behind Nick (VanderTuig),” Peterson said. “Who’s going to be the No. 2, No. 3 and so forth behind Nick.
“We’re anxious to see what kids from the program are going to step up and grab those open spots.”