Two of the premiere sports teams at Sunnyside High School look to be right on track to pick up where they left off last year.
The Sunnyside High School baseball team comes off a season where the Grizzlies ended up just one game short of qualifying for the 3A State tournament.
The Sunnyside High School boys soccer team comes off a season where soccer fever swept the community last spring. The Grizzly boys were just one game away from bringing home a trophy from the State tournament last year.
"I was worried in the beginning," laughed Sunnyside coach Juan Pineda about this year's team.
Pineda had good reason to be worried because he lost 13 players that were involved with last year's varsity squad, including nine seniors.
Pineda said that once practices started his worries quickly vanished.
Pineda is very optimistic about this season and the future of Grizzly soccer. He said there are six freshmen out this year who are really adjusting well to the system that he has put in place.
Sunnyside will be looking to rebuild its defense, said Pineda. Rafael Diego will be the only returning defender for the Grizzlies, playing at sweeper.
"Offensively, we are going to be dominating this year," said Pineda.
Pineda has good reason to be happy about his offense with two-time Mid-Valley League MVP Junior Garcia back running the show.
"He has improved his game tremendously," said Pineda of Garcia.
Pineda said Garcia is quicker and stronger than he has been in years past.
Pineda said Sunnyside should be strong on the wings and he is working at developing a center midfielder.
Sunnyside should also be strong at keeper with Rafa Martinez taking over for Johnny Hernandez, who graduated. Sam Wise will also be playing in the box this year for the Grizzlies.
"Sunnyside has always had good keepers," said Pineda, a former standout on the soccer field for the Grizzlies. "Now it is Rafa's turn to step up and meet expectations."
Pineda said he has been pleased with the efforts of his team. Pineda, though, said it will take a couple of games for his team to work out the kinks.
"They are working very hard and they are taking big steps. We want to be one of the top two teams in the league and one of the top four teams in the State," said Pineda. "As long as we get 11 players on a soccer ball, we will be very competitive."
Sunnyside High School baseball coach Dave Martinez is as equally excited about the upcoming season.
"Things are looking very optimistic for us," he said.
The comments are pretty encouraging in the light that the Grizzlies have lost some talent from last year's squad, most notably Micah Zakahi, R.J. Elizondo and Michael Johnson.
Sunnyside will be carrying eight seniors, four juniors and sophomore Ryan Engel on this year's team. Engel will be mainly playing at the JV level, but Martinez plans to bring him up to get a feel for the varsity setting.
"The kids have been working hard," said Martinez. "We have got a solid defense and a solid infield."
The Grizzlies look to be loaded with talent on the mound and behind the mound.
Cole Boboth will be assisting all league talent Pete Marquez with catching duties behind the plate.
"Pete is a very good catcher," said Martinez. "He knows the game."
The Grizzlies will be led on the mound by Derek Uberuaga, who had an outstanding season last year.
"Derek is looking sharp," said Martinez. "He is real focused."
The heart of the Grizzly line-up should be in the three, four, five spots. A couple of games into the season, Marquez will be holding down the lead-off spot on the roster. But it will be Chris Newberry, Uberuaga and Eric Crimp who will provide the powerful bats for the Grizzlies this year.
Newberry will also be the anchor for the Grizzlies in the outfield, playing in center.
Martinez said West Valley and Selah will be the teams to beat in the Mid-Valley League this year.
"I see us being very competitive," said Martinez. "We have to stay healthy and make good choices. We control where we are going to end up."