HS Baseball Preview: Altoona - WQOW TV: Eau Claire, WI NEWS18 News, Weather, and Sports

HS Baseball Preview: Altoona

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The Rails enter the season with high expectations The Rails enter the season with high expectations
Head Coach Jay Johnson Head Coach Jay Johnson
Senior Shortstop Phil Mazzei Senior Shortstop Phil Mazzei
Senior Pitcher/Outfielder Jake Eckardt Senior Pitcher/Outfielder Jake Eckardt

Altoona (WQOW) -- With eleven seniors returning to a team that advanced to the regional final, expectations are high for the Altoona baseball team.

The Rails will learn quickly where the team stands. Despite playing in the ultra-competitive Western Cloverbelt, the team has schedule a very tough non-conference schedule as well.

"Our non-conference schedule, I'll put it up against anybody," says head coach Jay Johnson. "We're playing against five division one schools this year. We're playing our three other non-conference against teams ranked in the state. It's not all about wins and losses, it's about getting better. And that's why I have a really tough schedule."

Senior Jake Eckardt adds: "Those games are good because we're going to see good competition in the playoffs. So it can't hurt to see those kind of games in the regular season. I think it will really prepare us for the playoffs."

A long playoff run has been the team's focus since being bounced from the playoffs last season. The players have spent extra time during the off season working out to prepare for this year.

"It's a good coaching problem to have where the kids are playing summer ball, a lot of summer ball, they're getting in the cages in the off season and stuff. So, like I said, it's a good problem to have for a coach," says Johnson.

The team's eleven seniors spearheaded the off season workouts. The team says that extra time together should pay dividends for the Rails.

"We have a strong senior class. We've been together since 3rd grade, so we really know each others strengths and weaknesses and we work really well as a team," says Eckardt.

"We have great team chemistry," adds senior shortstop Phil Mazzei. "We know what each other is going to do. We've got everyone's back. It helps a lot that we've been together, and we're going to make a good run in the playoffs.."

Altoona opens up the season on Tuesday, April 2nd against Baldwin-Woodville.

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