By Siobhan Bauer
The Diamond Dawgs are back on the field once again as autumn practices are underway in preparation for the first season in the brand new Husky Ballpark. Full-team practices, which commenced two weeks ago, have been taking place on the recently finished turf field that is part of the scheduled renovations.
The 2014 squad, coached by fifth-year head coach Lindsay Meggs, will be made up of a strong cast of returning starters as well as a valuable recruiting class. Additionally, as announced in July, the Huskies have welcomed their new hitting coach, Donegal Fergus, out of Lower Columbia College.
Coming into fall-ball, the Huskies are looking to re-establish some more depth to their line-up and pitching staff after struggling with low numbers last year.
“We had a lot of injuries, and that set us back early,” said Meggs. “We recovered late and had a great finish and a good second half, so that's what we're focusing on and trying to carry that over. All in all, we’re feeling much better about where we are physically.”
The Huskies had a 10-4 record to wrap up the last month of the 2013 regular season and ended Pac-12 play with a .500 record and sixth-place finish in the standings. With this strong performance in the back of the team’s mind, Meggs is hoping they can build from last season’s late momentum.
“One of the themes we began fall ball with was just the saying 'All Nine’. We have to play all nine innings, and that applies to not just the games, but practice and the season in general,” Meggs explained. “If we had gotten off to a better start we would have played in the post season.”
So far in practice, the early emphasis has been on the offense. Meggs has good reason for focusing on the hitting.
“For us, we’ve kind of focused a little bit more on the offense end of it,” Meggs said, “because of the injuries we had on the mound last year. “We’re trying to go slower with the pitchers, take a little bit more time with the arm-care issues, in terms of giving them a little bit more time before they face live hitters and giving them more time to recover.”
Meggs also added: “And there’s Donegal Fergus, our hitting coach. Since he’s new, we’ve spent a lot of time with all of our hitters, returners and new guys, getting to know him, and getting to know what’s important to him.”
Besides Fergus, Meggs is hoping to break in the incoming class of newcomers that bring up numbers in positions across the board. “I think we’ll have some depth on the mound because of that group that we haven’t had in the past couple of years,” notes Meggs.
“Henry Baker, a left-handed pitcher from Augora Hills, Calif., is a guy that we think can step in as a freshman and pitch on the weekend and potentially start a mid-week game. Brandon Chote is a junior-college transfer from Tacoma who’s pitched in every different role out of the bullpen.
“Position-wise, we’ve got some more depth on the infield with Chris Baker who came in from St. Francis High School in Mountain View, Calif.,” Meggs continued. “He can play shortstop, and can play almost any position in the infield, that helps. My own son from Bellevue, Jack Meggs, can play any of the three outfield spots. He will push all the guys that are back.
“All those guys in that class that came in this fall, in some way, shape or form are going to fight their way onto the field or make the team better”
With the new stadium well underway, the excitement continues to grow among players and coaches. While admitting that the constant buzz of construction has limited some aspects of practice, Meggs noted that motivation is off the charts because they are watching the progress of the stadium up close.
“You’re talking about finally having a home that you’re proud of,” Meggs said. “Everyone has a little swagger, everybody feels good about it, and they’re proud of it. You can’t wait to get to work every day, and you can wait to get to practice each day. That’s a good feeling.”
The fall season will run through mid-October and finishes with an inter-squad tournament scheduled for Oct. 14-19.