KALAMAZOO, Mich. — "It was a great experience. The whole playoffs was kind of just like a journey as like the team came together. It was just the most fun in baseball I've ever had," said Hackett senior outfielder, Brenden Collins.
The reigning Divsion 4 state champions, Kalamazoo Hackett, have their sights set on back to back titles.
"I think this is a different team. We lost a lot last year. Some of our best players but we have a lot coming in. And I think a lot of teams are counting us out and maybe some people are counting so but we're gonna play with a chip on our shoulder and I'm excited to see what we can do this year." said Nick Verduzco, Hackett junior short stop.
Led by Smiley Verduzco, and his son Steve, the Irish have played just one game so far this season thanks to some nasty weather, but will play seven games in the next five days. Smiley would've loved to have his team on the field more this year but says their practices truly get the guys prepared for any game situation.
"We really do take a game by game and pitch by pitch. It keeps the game simple. Otherwise it gets all complicated. They're all thinking about the playoffs, replicating what they did last year, you know that? That just doesn't work. And so by the time we get to any game that's special. It's a competitive game or not just played the same way," said Smiley Verduzco.
In just the playoffs alone last year, Hackett outscored their opponent 67 to 29. Senior outfielder Brenden Collins know things will be different this season.
"Last year, we are definitely known for our our hitting, but I think this year we're gonna have to play better defense. I mean, we're just not going to have a lot of home runs like we did last year. We're going to be more of a base running small ball type team that's going to play defense really well," said Collins.
There are three generations of Verduzco's in Hackett baseball. But the entire program is one big family.
"My dad and my grandpa always say that. We're kind of all like one family. They might be my dad and my grandpa but they treat everyone the same," said Nick.
"We treat them no differently. And it's really important for us because, you know Stephens the father, but we got a couple other dads too on the team. Right, that coach. So we really make sure that we as coaches treat the boys just like they're our sons," said Smiley.
Last years title was the first ever for baseball at Hackett and the Irish would love to make it two in a row.
"That'd be amazing. It was the most fun two days in my life. So to get there again would be awesome," said Nick.
"I mean, that's the end goal. So I hope that's what we do this year," said Collins.
3,2,1 Go Irish!