The Mid-Valley Rockets finished the regular season on a hot streak last year. The Rockets scraped together enough wins to make it to a super-regional where they earned a berth into the state tournament.
“We were able to build a competitive team during our league games last year and that gave us a chance to make the postseason,” coach Troy Babbitt said.
The Rockets are trying to build on that success this season with several players returning from last season. The Rockets had a young team last season and are hoping to benefit from another year of experience.
“We have nine starters back and we made the playoffs last year so this year we have high expectations here. I feel like this year there could be something special,” infielder Jacob Trader said.
The Rockets have taken a long-term approach with their team. Babbitt says that he plans to keep the game plan roughly the same as last year. Much of that comes from having the same players in the system.
“Having guys that have been in the program for four, three, two years is starting to pay off for us,” Babbitt said.
Having so many players back on the roster from last year has created a unity with the team that Babbitt hopes will help them down the road.
“We have the best chemistry coming into game one that we’ve ever had. We’ll be able to hit that stride hopefully earlier than we have in years past,” Babbitt said.
While the Rockets are built with largely the same roster, they will be adding a pair of Sweet Home Huskies to the roster this year. Keanu Aiona and Justin Tow are newcomers to the squad but Babbitt knows they come from a competitive league.
There will be an adjustment for the two and Aiona is anticipating having to deal with faster pitching and more of a day-to-day grind than he and Tow experienced in high school.
“It’s so much more intense. It takes a lot out of you so you have to take care of your body,” Aiona said.
One player who is used to the day-to-day grind is Jake Rappe’. He returns to the Rockets after redshirting last year at Linn-Benton Community College.
Rappe’ primarily played third base last season but will move across the infield to play first for Mid-Valley this season.
The plan, according to Babbitt is to have brother Adam Rappe’ at third base where Jake originally played. Jake said it’s a great experience getting to play with his brother for one more season with the Rockets.
“I played third base in high school," Rappe’ said. “Coming over to first it’s another corner job so you’re playing on the line. It’s a little similar but there’s a lot of different stuff. I played there in the fall at LBCC when I redshirted.”
The Rockets lost their season opener, falling 3-2 in 10 innings to Portland BBC on Monday night. Mid-Valley left a runner on third in the 10th.
The Rockets host the Canyon Crushers Tuesday for a doubleheader at Memorial Stadium before finishing the week with a road trip to Roseburg to face Doc Stewart’s.