KINGSBURG — If you were to ask any of the players on the Kingsburg baseball team their expectations of the 2018 season, they are not shy about saying how high they’re aiming.

Several of the team's seniors are expecting to compete for Valley and state titles.

“I think with the guys we have, it’s definitely a possibility,” senior right fielder/pitcher Seth Costi said.

Pitcher/utility player Hunter Sasselli is also a senior with high expectations.

“We've got to aim high,” Sasselli said. “Aim small, miss small.”

Jacob Anaya, senior catcher, is another player on the squad with a similar mindset.

“You always aim high,” Anaya said. “If you aim high, then you miss high.”

Senior pitcher Riley Walls has similar expectations as his teammates, but also wants to see how far the team has progressed since his freshman year.

He recalls his freshman season when he got promoted from the junior varsity squad along with a group of freshmen. Walls remembers the culture change of the atmosphere and expectations.

“We were kind of nervous for it at first,” Walls said, “but playing with the older guys, they really talked to us and helped us through everything.”

Since his freshman season, there have been four different head coaches.

Jim Cranford is the head coach now. He was hired in August 2017.

It’s Cranford’s second stint as a head coach at the high school. He coached the varsity football squad from 1999-2004. He’s also been a teacher at the school for over 30 years.

Sasselli, Costi, Anaya and Walls said it was tough to have four different head coaches.

In his first season as the head baseball coach, Cranford inherited a team that went 17-12 overall and 9-6 in Central Sequoia League play in 2017. Last year, Kingsburg qualified for the CIF Central Section Division III playoffs, but lost in the quarterfinals 6-1 to Garces High School.

The majority of last year’s team is returning and will provide playoff experience.

“They’re a senior-dominated group, so they know what it takes to win,” Cranford said. “So they’ve been there. I expect them to go far.”

Although several of the seniors have high expectations for their final high school season, Cranford said the only way those goals happen is by putting in the work on the practice field.

For Kingsburg to take a step forward, the Vikings have to go through the CSL. That won’t be easy since five of the six CSL teams finished with an overall record over .500 last season. Kingsburg finished in a second-place tie with Selma at 9-6 in CSL play.

“It always tough, baseball is good in our league,” Cranford said. “A bunch of good coaches, they run year-round programs. I think what they do in our league as compared to a lot of leagues is they do a good job of teaching the game.”

The Vikings have started the 2018 season at 1-1-2 overall. Kingsburg opened the season on the road against Firebaugh with a 6-6 draw on Feb. 20. After losing 8-0 to Madera South two days later, the Vikings earned their first win of season in an 11-9 home victory over Fowler on Feb 24.

On Feb. 28, Kingsburg tied with Sierra Pacific in a 4-4 draw. The Vikings are to play on their home field against Mission Oak on Wednesday, March 7, in a slated 3:30 afternoon start.

Jeremiah Martinez can be reached at 583-2413 or jmartinez@hanfordsentinel.com

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