FAIRBANKS—Monroe Catholic, like any high school baseball team in the Mid Alaska Conference, is excited to get on a diamond this weekend. Monroe’s excitement also is at a fever pitch because the Rams are entering their first full season at the varsity level.
Dan Clark, who has been Monroe’s head coach since the program started two years ago, sees the Rams’ new status as a natural progression.
“This is what we started the whole program for. It’s gone exactly where we wanted it,’’ Clark said during a telephone interview Tuesday night. “The first year, there was not a whole lot of expectations. We were hoping by the second year to do better.”
Monroe’s schedules that were filled mostly with games against junior varsity opponents are gone like a home run over a center-field fence. Last season, the Rams compiled an 8-1 record, but its only varsity competition was a split against the Houston Hawks.
With 23 players in its program, Monroe will still play some JV games this season. They’re also committed to varsity contests, and like the other teams in the MAC, they’ll try to earn a berth in the Alaska Schools Activities Association/First National Bank State Championships.
The MAC has two berths for the tournament scheduled for May 31-June 2 at Mulcahy Stadium in Anchorage.
The Rams make their varsity debut Friday with a doubleheader against the Cordova Wolverines, starting at 4 p.m. at Growden Memorial Park. At 4:30 p.m. Monday, Monroe visits the Delta Junction Huskies for the Rams’ first Mid Alaska game.
“They’re excited for the season to start and I think they anticipate doing good things,’’ Clark said. “We have some good athletes, including a few who are coming off a successful basketball season.”
Sophomore infielder David Stepovich and pitcher/infielders Chris Gavora (senior), Scooter Bynum (sophomore) and Tyler Wells (sophomore) were part of the 2011-12 Rams’ boys basketball team that finished 24-1 , highlighted by capturing the Class 3A state title in Anchorage in March.
The Monroe baseball team’s mixture of experience and youth includes four players who were part of the Rams’ inaugural season — Gavora, senior outfielders and twins Jason and Sydney Pace, and junior outfielder Kyle Coiley.
Monroe also has a trio of strong sophomores in infielder Nick Fleming, who was the team’s lead-off batter last season, and left-handed first basemen Nathaniel Brose and Ryan Burke.
The Rams’ first three games are the baseball equivalent of a test-and-tune session, as Clark will also be evaluating the team’s talent.
“We’re looking to give our key players some experience. I think most teams have that approach,’’ Clark said.
“Later on, when we have conference play, we’ll mix in the younger guys.”
Contact staff writer Danny Martin at *459-7586.