Northern Valley opens up 2013 season
Rebuilding is something Brad Rauch wasn't forced to do in his first two years as Northern Valley's baseball coach.
But as Rauch begins his third season, that's exactly what he's faced with as the Chargers (1-3) begin play in the highly competitive Lehigh Valley Legion League.
Northern Valley enjoyed a tremendously successful season in Rauch's first year, as the team went 15-3 in 2011 and captured the regular season title. That momentum carried into last summer, as the Chargers went 9-9 and again earned a spot in the playoffs.
Now, Rauch will have to manage a team with only six returning players and several newcomers that will be tasked with making significant contributions this season.
"We have a young team and this is going to be somewhat of a rebuilding year for us," Rauch said of his squad. "Even many of my returning players are fairly young and my starting second baseman (Northwestern Lehigh's Brady Mengel) was a freshman this past year."
Mengel's Northwestern teammates, sophomores Taylor Breininger and Josh Williamson, will join the squad this year as part of the new wave of talent Rauch will by relying on throughout the season.
But Rauch admits that even though some of his players were teammates just a few months ago, the transition to a new team and coaching staff can be difficult for many of the younger players.
"It can be hard playing the first couple of games with different kids," said Rauch. "A lot of the younger players are hesitant because they're new and they don't know how they'll be received by some of the older kids.
"But I think they'll get comfortable after a few games and start to settle in."
Rauch is hoping to ease the transition for many of his newcomers by simply going back to basics.
"Because they're so young they need more guidance than the teams I've had in the past," Rauch said. "I've been trying to focus more on the fundamentals before games that way it just becomes second nature to them."
Rauch is expecting the leadership to come from his core group of veterans, such as Northern Lehigh's Cody Hallman, Matt Williams, Kris Seiler and Ryan Trexler; Lehighton's Josh Kern and Northwestern's Collin Breidinger.
Rauch also takes solace in the fact that his coaching staff has remained unchanged during his three year tenure, which has helped to stabilize the program.
"Everyone has jumped in and everyone is committed," Rauch said of his volunteer staff. "These coaches can tell the kids what its all about and what it takes to achieve the success we've had over the last two years.
"What we're building now is going to get us where we need to be."
And where Rauch wants his squad to be is back in the playoffs for the third consecutive season with an opportunity to prove that the program he has built is here to stay.
"Even though this is a transition year, our goal is still to make the playoffs," Rauch said of his expectations. "After that, we want to go on to regionals. If we can improve this year, we will be a powerhouse in the future."