It’s been over three months since Hockinson High School won its first ever state football championship, but a certain group of the athletes from that team are still being looked to for leadership. Only this time, they’ve traded in pads for button-up jerseys and helmets for ball caps.
Head Baseball Coach Shaniko Ristau said he’s looked to the players who were a part of the football team for leadership, knowing that after their playoff run, they understand the work and mental state needed to have a shot at a championship.
“They know what it takes,” he said.
The football players he’s relying on to help foster a winning environment fill 10 spots on the baseball team’s 14 man roster. They include: Canon and Sawyer Racanelli, Matt Henry, Zac Ristau, Colton Wheeler, Blake Sparks, Jonathan Domingos, Jake Beslanowitch, Wyatt Jones and Nikolas Niehaus.
Specifically, Ristau was quick to mention senior Colton Wheeler, who played a key role on the football team on both sides of the ball, as a middle linebacker on defense and a running back on offense.
Ristau described Wheeler, who is set to join the United States Naval Academy upon graduation, as a “national born leader.”
Early in the season, Wheeler has coupled his leadership with stellar play at the plate as well, including going three-for-three in the Hawks’ league opener against Ridgefield last week.
The football player’s experience may be the bump needed for a state run, but the team was primed for what could be a historic year either way.
After winning the Greater St. Helens league title last season, the Hawks only lost two players. Everyone else is back this season, giving the team six seniors and seven juniors. There is only one sophomore and no freshman.
The Hawks have quickly found themselves second place in league after defeating Ridgefield and Washougal last week. (R.A. Long is in first place, but they’ve played more league games so far, posting a 3-0 record).
Ristau said their early-season success is due to them “doing all the small things right,” and believes his squad is “one of the best defensive teams out there.”
As the season progresses, Ristau hopes to see the Hawks driving in a few more runs.
“If we put runs up I don’t know why we can’t move deep into the playoffs,” he said.