Pusch Ridge had a record-setting year last year, going 23-3 en route to its first-ever 2A baseball championship under head coach and former major league pitcher Doug Jones.
Doug's son, Dawson, went 9-0 in his senior season with a 1.69 ERA, and he also batted .373. Andy Knox batted .464 in his senior season.
The Lions have entered this season without Knox and the Joneses. Doug Jones, a former five-time big league all-star, accepted a position as pitching coach with San Diego Christian College.
Succession would seem to be a tall order for first-year coach Mark Frithsen, who's also the defensive coordinator on the football team. But the cupboard wasn't exactly left dry, as Friday's 23-4 win over Tombstone illustrated.
Owen Bertelsen, a senior who batted .359 last year, opened the year with a 5-5 performance.
"I felt good today," Bertelsen said. "I was confident every time. We lost a lot of people, but we still have a lot of great players."
Bertelsen plays shortstop and second base, and will also pitch occasionally.
Senior Alec Erreg had three hits and scored five runs. Last year, he batted .427 with three home runs.
Aaron Vaughn belted the game's only homer, batted in five runs, and also scored four runs. Vaughn also pitched four innings against Tombstone and struck out eight batters with no walks. A year ago, he posted a 2.28 ERA on the mound with a win-loss record of 6-1.
"Aaron's our number one pitcher," Frithsen said. "We have four good pitchers including Owen Bertelsen."
The Lions return seven seniors, including Matt Horrigan, who batted .350 last year.
The Lions may not have the manpower to bludgeon the opposition, but they have a different approach.
"We're a little less powerful than last year," Frithsen said. "We'll be running a lot this year. Our speedsters are Horrigan, Alec and Aaron."
The three speedsters all, coincidentally, batted in the top three slots in the lineup and scored 12 runs among them on Friday.
"All three have power and speed," Frithsen pointed out.
The Lions don't figure to win 23 games this year, but Frithsen anticipates the team making another deep run in the playoffs.
"We have a good nucleus," Frithsen said. "Aaron, Owen, Alec, Horrigan and Collin (Chafin) are all top-notch players. This may be my first year as head coach, but my coaching staff (Cort Hall, Dallas Hale, Jeff King) is very knowledgeable."