High School athletes across the state have been yearning to hear the words “Play Ball” for months now and the Albia Blue Demon baseball team was able to answer the call on Monday at 12:01. “We are grateful to have a season no matter how abbreviated,” said Coach Robbie D’Amato. “Other states might be just trying to get a post season play-off together but we get to play. The 12:01 a.m. start was a way to have some fun and generally get reacquainted.”
The Blue Demons had 17 of their 27 JV and varsity players on the field that early morning but even that gave the team a chance to figure some things out. “We are learning to adapt on the fly to the state guidelines and our situation within those guidelines,” said Coach D’Amato. “There is uncertainty everywhere. The season could be stalled or taken away at any time so we have to be prepared for all eventualities.”
At this point the Blue Demons have 13 varsity and 12 JV games scheduled and have a freshman plan as well.
The coach is excited about the prospects for the 2020 campaign with 11 returning letter winners as well as 10 others vying for varsity play. Seniors include Ashtin Brand, a two time All SCC player; Gaige Rankin; Barrett Bonnett; and Albia’s leading hitter from last year Jameson Robertson, who hit for better than a .300 in 2019. Juniors returning are Logan DeBrouse, Tein Thiravong, and Jaden Hugen, who hit in the .370s in 2019. Sophomore returning letter winners are Hunter DeMoss, Eli Smith, Ben Little and Logan Heaton.
Also in the mix for varsity play are juniors Jackson Pence, Trey Griffin, as well as sophomore Gavin Grinstead. Showing promise are freshmen Gage Oddo, Sam Shepard, C.J. Flattery, Wyatt Sinclair, Devin Kimball, and Aaron Lowe.
Even with a shortened schedule the importance of pitching is not diminished and the Blue Demons have a stable of proven arms. “We think this is the strongest staff we have had since I came here,” said Coach D’Amato. “Tein Tiravong was one of the top pitchers in the conference last year while Barrett Bonnett gives us a solid senior on the mound. Eli Smith and Ashtin Brand are prospective starters as well. We feel comfortable putting Jaden Hugen on the mound as well as Hunter DeMoss while we certainly hope to get Drew Chance varsity work as well.”
Offensively the Blue Demons will look to Brand, Robertson and Hugen to provide the fire power. “These three provided the bulk of our hits last year and we expect big things from them this year as well,” said the coach.
As the season begins in irregular fashion the coach plans to emphasize fundamentals. “We need to make the routine plays,” said D’Amato. “Consistency will help us in every aspect of the game but especially on defense. The positive attitude we ended on last season needs to continue and we could have a season to remember.”
The Blue Demons will start competition on June 15 against SCC rival EBF.