Billy Hayes is now in his 19th season as the head coach of Battle Ground’s baseball team as the Tigers prepare for what they hope will be a successful postseason run.
Last year, the Tigers made the first round of the playoffs with three seniors on the team. This season, six seniors hope to lead Battle Ground back to the playoffs and beyond.
“I love it here,” Hayes said. “I love the type of players that come out here, the character, the work ethic, it fits everything for me.”
The coach has built a brand of toughness through his almost two decades of coaching. The athletes on the team take pride in that as they sometimes wear shirts on the practice field with the slogan “Built BG Tough.”
Hayes uses his strategies to continually try to shake up the 4A Greater St. Helens League and to instill mental grit into his athletes.
Hayes coaches something that is not seen at the major league level much anymore: “hard 90s.” His athletes are expected to give it their all as they run the 90 feet from base to base without slowing down.
“(Fans) will see a group of young men playing the game right,” Hayes said. “They will play the game hard. They have good attitudes and the biggest thing is they will play the game right.”
University of Hawaii commit and senior first baseman, Kevin Ferguson, said the team includes “a great group of guys.”
“I look forward to coming out here and having fun and spending a good time here at Battle Ground for my last year,” Ferguson said.
Ferguson said it has been a lifelong dream of his to play baseball at the next level. His commitment to the University of Hawaii brings that dream one step closer to reality.
Something that has sparked hope for the future of Battle Ground baseball is the fact that a full C team roster has been assembled along with a full junior varsity and varsity squad.
“All that does is enhance our program. Without that C team, we cut 25 players,” Hayes said. “Once you cut a player, they’re probably not going to come back. This gives us a chance to put 15 more kids out on the field and develop them.”
In prior years, Battle Ground had a low turnout for baseball tryouts, which led to the end of the C team. Hayes said the team would typically get a 2A level turnout as a 4A high school.
There’s several key matchups to look ahead to on the schedule this year.
“First of all, we got the toughest league in the state, so with three other teams — Camas, Union, Skyview — that’s a battle right there every time out,” Hayes said. “For our non-league schedule, we purposely went and hunted for the best teams. The whole point is to get ready for league, so when we step into league, we have seen the top players, some top teams and good pitching.”
The Tigers opened its season on the road on Saturday, March 11 in a game against Rogers High School of Puyallup.
Battle Ground will face off against a top-ranked team from Oregon on Saturday, March 18 as they travel to play Clackamas High School.
The team’s first home matchup of the season is scheduled for Monday, April 10 against the Camas Papermakers.
Hayes has already set his eyes on his favorite award of the season: the academic award.
“We have been getting it for several years and hopefully we can continue that tradition here,” Hayes said. “Just to stress to these players that baseball is fun, it’s a privilege to play this game, but that education is number one.”