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A chilly spring start for the boys of summer

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By Steve Smith

FORT LUPTON — As the first two weeks of formal practice ended last week, Fort Lupton’s first-year baseball coach, Brandon O’Field, had a lot to be happy about.
    Three of last year’s all-conference selections — Colton McCutchan, Benny Medina and Jeff Merritt — are on the squad this spring. McCutchan was a first-team choice as a freshman. They are among eight returning Bluedevils’ letter-winners who played on last year’s squad that advanced to the district playoffs.

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    “We have some good experience coming back with players from last season that were big pieces to the production of the team,” said O’Field, who coached the Prairie View High School baseball team in 2011. “That should give us some much needed leadership in our program. We will depend on them to guide our team and set an expectation for the younger players to follow.  I am also excited about the potential of the younger players that we will use this season.  You want those players to be able to get comfortable in situations and let them grow and learn so they don’t have to shoulder the load of doing a lot this season.
    “We will have that senior leadership and a young group that can carry on traditions from this year to next as they become leaders in the future,” he added.
    Even though the Bluedevils had to spend much of the first two weeks of practice inside, O’Field saw something else to make him smile.
    “We also seem to be strong on the defensive side from what I have seen without being outside much,” O’Field said. “I think we will also be a good offensive team. At least I believe we will have the ability to move people around and produce runs based on the athleticism of the team. “
    There are some unknowns, too.
    “There are questions about our pitching staff with really very minimal returning players that contributed a lot from last season,” O’Field said. “For me, it will be the unknown of both what I don’t know yet about our team and what I don’t know yet about the teams in our conference.” Fort Lupton plays a mainly class 4A schedule in the Colorado 7 League but drops down to class 3A for the postseason.
    Barring weather issues, the Bluedevils are scheduled to play seven games in the first two weeks of the season.
“My biggest worry at this point in the season is the overall depth in our program,” O’Field said. “If there needs to be changes, our younger teams are not quite ready to move up and can use some extra time to develop.  I am also worried about our depth at pitching and wondering if we will have enough to get us through the tough weeks when we might have three games or any long stretch of games in our season.”
O’Field took over the program from Mark Gonzales,   who is the new hitting and bench coach at Prairie View
    “I have been very pleased with the willingness of the players to learn and accept coaching through the change,” O’Field said. “I have also been pleased so far with the athleticism our team has and the potential of having a good mix of older players and younger players who will contribute to our team production.  The player’s also have demonstrated a great work ethic and they are also showing me that they have a strong baseball IQ which is something we want our player to focus on.”
    “My coaching staff and I are really excited to see these players compete and challenge for a league title which will always be the goal of our program,” he continued. “We are excited about the potential of our team and anxious to see how we will develop overall.”