Rusty Bourg thinks his team took a step in the right direction last season.
Now, the third-year Calvary Lutheran baseball coach hopes the Lions can take an even bigger stride after finishing 6-8 last spring and 3-3 last fall.
"You'd love to be over .500," Bourg said. "That's our goal - win more than we lose. If we can play over .500 baseball, I'd say it's been a pretty successful year for us."
Calvary, which hosts New Haven at 4 p.m. today in its season opener, should go into the 2014 campaign feeling optimistic. The Lions return everyone from last year's squad and they've also added seven freshmen.
So far, Bourg likes what he sees.
"We've had some of the better practices we've had in a couple years," he said. "We're hitting the ball very well. If we play some defense, we'll stay in the game. If we put together some offense, we'll win some games."
Calvary has 17 players on this year's team - the biggest in the program's seven-year history.
But that's not the only exciting part for Bourg. The Lions also have seven players returning that have played together for three years.
"I'm hoping our strength is going to be chemistry," he said. "I'm hoping they have confidence in each other.
"I'm hoping our defense will improve a little bit and that we continue to put the ball in play. That's the key - defense and limiting our strikeouts. If we can do that, we should be OK."
The Lions will be led by seniors Caleb Propst, Trevor Dusheke and Wyatt Archer.
"They're invaluable," Bourg said. "They're all leaders in their own way. If everybody else follows their lead, we'll be in pretty good shape."
Juniors Beau Monson, Hance Sommerer, Bradley MacLaughlin and Gavin Nutt, along with sophomores Tristan Clementich, Cole Duenckel and Alex Gentges, are expected to see the majority of the innings for Calvary this season. Freshmen Colin Bernskoetter and Alex Flannigan could also be called upon throughout the year.
"I'm hoping a couple of them can help at the varsity level," Bourg said. "You never know until you get out there."
Monson hit slightly above .300 to lead Calvary at the plate last season, while MacLaughlin and Propst both hovered around that mark.
Archer is expected to lead the Lions' pitching staff, while Monson, MacLaughlin, Sommerer, Propst, Nutt and Flannigan will also see some time on the mound.
"Our big question mark is pitching," Bourg said. "It's adequate if everyone stays healthy."
Out of the 12 players competing for varsity time, nine were members of this year's basketball team.
While that might lead to a slower start for the Lions on the diamond than other teams, Bourg is confident his group has the potential and drive to make some noise down the stretch.
"I think once we get a few games under our belt and our confidence builds a little bit, I think we'll get better as we go on," he said. "At least I hope so. You always hope to peak at the end of April. If you do that, you're doing pretty good."