Baseball preview: Motivated by opportunities, Falcon looks to make program history

March 11, 2014 Updated: March 11, 2014 at 9:54 pm
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photo - Falcon second baseman Bailey Flores moves into position to attempt to throw out a Mesa Ridge runner during a pickle as Falcon beat Mesa Ridge 6-5 Friday, March 22, 2013 at Mesa Ridge High School. Michael Ciaglo, The Gazette
Falcon second baseman Bailey Flores moves into position to attempt to throw out a Mesa Ridge runner during a pickle as Falcon beat Mesa Ridge 6-5 Friday, March 22, 2013 at Mesa Ridge High School. Michael Ciaglo, The Gazette 

In many cases, a team losing a 10-member senior class laments that drop-off in leadership, oftentimes leading to a downturn the following season.

They're embracing that scenario in Falcon.

"We lost a lot of senior leadership," Falcons second-year coach Don Thompson said. "The time is now to step up and do special things."

Special things would include winning a league title and hosting a district playoff (never done) and winning a game in the postseason (not done since 1990).

And Thompson is confident a team with one senior and only four returning players with varsity experience can get the job done.

"We basically came into workouts with a wide-open competition," he said. "There's a lot of excitement going on. We're going to have growing pains, but we're an enthusiastic bunch."

Last season, Thompson inherited a team rich in experience. While Falcon went 12-7 during regular-season play and finished third in the Pikes Peak Athletic Conference with a 9-5 mark, the team met a familiar fate with a quick loss in the first game of the district playoffs.

He also noticed chemistry issues between a veteran team and a new coach.

"It's a blessing to take over a program with a lot of senior leadership," said Thompson, who formerly coached a state-championship water polo team during a previous stint in San Diego. "But it's a challenge taking over a team that was set in their ways. Now, we're starting to establish a program for the future."

This season, Thompson will break new ground even before league season starts when he takes the Falcons to Arizona during spring break.

"We've never done that," Thompson said. "To make that trip is big for our program. We're excited to see the competition we've heard and read about. Finally, we get to go down to see the big boys."

Senior Bailey Flores, who sported a 4-0 record aside from playing a solid second base, will move over to short to replace the graduated John Solberg, a four-time all-conference player now playing at Seward County (Kan.) Community College.

Flores already has committed to play baseball at Nebraska-Kearney, and Thompson already has seen a change in maturity and character from last year to today.

"He's our only senior, and he has really stepped up as a leader on this team," Thompson said. "We'll need that to accomplish the big goals we want to accomplish. In the playoffs, we've never had success there, and those are things we're trying to change. We feel we're really starting a new program here with talented young men that are hungry. I'm anxious to see what the next years will hold."

Flores is already happy with what he's seen so far.

"I like where we're sitting with the leaders we have," Flores said. "I'm excited that everyone on our team has the same mindset, that we can do anything when we set our minds to it."

The Falcons aren't dwelling on the past.

"We know our school hasn't won a league title, but it comes down to believing in each other," Flores said. "Every senior has high hopes of going out on top, to go out with a bang."

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