With the Woodside baseball team in the driver’s seat for a Peninsula Athletic League Ocean Division title, staying loose is key.
That hasn’t been a problem.
In fact, most times the players don’t even know who they are playing until they reach the field.
“Some of them show up and literally don’t know who we’re playing. They just show up and play,” Woodside coach Tim Faulkner said. “I don’t think any of them are looking ahead. These guys have fun.”
Woodside (13-8, 8-1 PAL Ocean) is only two seasons removed from a winless league season and now is closing in on a league crown despite a 10-1 loss to Aragon on Tuesday.
“The difference is we’re winning the close games now,” Faulkner said. “I’ve been here for eight years, and this team is the toughest I’ve had.”
The 11 seniors on the roster have seen the climate at Woodside change, and that is evident in attitude and production.
Senior Brian Clifford is hitting .324, has a team-best 18 RBIs and has greatly improved his approach at the plate from a year ago.
“Clifford is just one of the toughest players I’ve ever coached. He plays so flipping hard,” Faulkner said. “He is swinging at strikes, getting pitches to hit.”
John Buchman has been electric on the mound, mixing in three pitches he can throw for strikes.
“[He] knows the game,” Faulkner said. “He’s not scared of anyone.”
Buchman has a 1.54 ERA in 45¹⁄³ innings with batters hitting a paltry .151 against the senior.
The Wildcats did take a hit when Derek Azzopardi, who Faulkner considers the best player in the league, went down with an ankle injury a couple of weeks ago and will probably miss the rest of the season.
Azzopardi was hitting .344 with 14 RBIs and had thrown a no-hitter March 20 against Jefferson.
But this has not slowed the Wildcats’ attack.
“Offensively it’s tough to replace him, but we’re getting key hits,” Faulkner said. “We’ve got about five guys that can pitch. We’re starting one of our other guys. We’re just trying to piece it together.”
Sophomore Brad Degnan leads the team with three home runs to go along with 16 RBIs. Fourteen of his 23 hits are for extra bases.
Woodside is down to 12 players after also losing a couple to ineligibility, but has kept its cool.
“They’re just a loose bunch,” Faulkner said. “They don’t let any pressure get to them. It’s fun to watch.”
Woodside has five remaining league games and is on the verge of its first league title since 2007.