If it's pitching that wins games, the main goal of Summit High's baseball team is to develop its handful of potential pitchers into a crew that delivers strong results each inning.
Workhorse pitcher Gabe Stuhr graduated last year, leaving somewhat of a void on the mound.
"In a nutshell, it's always all about pitching," head coach Tom Looby said. "Gabe was a workhorse last year; he pitched more than half the innings."
And yet - those other innings gave time to other pitchers. The same pitchers Looby hopes his assistant coaches can develop into stars, like Thomas DeBonville, Luke Egging, Jake Latta and Brian Bossert.
Assistant coaches Justin Green pitched in college and Joe Bauserman in minor leagues, so between the two, Looby is hopeful the centerpiece component will be ready to go by the time league play starts.
"We don't have any single dominating pitcher. We'll be using a lot of our guys, especially early on because we want to be careful with our arms and we also want to scope out who's going to give us the best-quality innings," Looby said, adding that the benefit of community programs targeting youth baseball appears to be paying off, as players with skill - including pitching skill - are now showing up for the high school team.
"It starts with pitching strikes," Looby said. From there, it's developing speed and off-speed pitches.
If pitching develops, another goal will follow: getting the ball in play.
That's because the team has a strong defense, both in the infield and outfield.
Starters are returning at catcher, first base, second base, shortstop, center field and left field. Anton Barlow is providing a strong candidate for third base (though he's contending with Ricky Seltzer and Ben Hall), and though Duncan Biggin may have nailed down one outfield position (the other, even with a returner, is up for grabs), it seems the others will be highly sought-after.
"We're looking really good. For this point in the season ... our infield is looking amazing for this time of year. Very few errors right now. Our hitting is coming along very well. I think our first game will turn out to our advantage," team captain Brian Bossert said, referring to the game against Jefferson, which has been postponed in anticipation of weather Saturday.
The other half of the equation, hitting, has the same potential as pitching - but players will need to step up to the plate, so to speak.
Three of the team's best players are lost, including Jason Looby and Gabe Stuhr (both graduated) and Creed Wilson isn't playing this year. That's three of the team's four best hitters and overall players - all three of whom hit over a .300. DeBonville currently leads the team's lineup after hitting .400 last year as a freshman.
"We're trying to fill those shoes" with the four juniors and five sophomores who saw varsity playing time last year, Looby said.
"We're hoping that their experience getting to start ... will pay dividends this year, because they're that much more experienced," he said.
In addition to boostisng pitching and hitting, Looby is focusing on the team's record.
"We're trying to build a stronger program. We've been making progress over the past few years. Five years ago, we were doing well to win one or two games a year. Last year, we were able to win six games, so we wound up at 6-13. Our hope this year is to win 10 or more, to have a winning season out of 19 (games)," Looby said.
Part of that will come from development programs, and part of it will come from the coach's off-season dedication to the team.
"We've been working hard since January with a lot of the guys. There are about 10-12 who have been training since then," he said, explaining that the idea is to be leaps and bounds ahead of the other competition in the Western Slope, which is a new league for Summit.
Palisade and Delta are perennially strong, with Palisade often topping the 4A division and going far in the state playoffs.
But, the coach is hopeful that with a restructured playoff entry process, Summit could contend for one of the three open spots. In the Jefferson County league, the team could hardly hold its head above water. The coach is hopeful his players can compete better against fellow mountain schools with similar weather and size challenges.
With forecasts of incoming weather, a game scheduled for Saturday against Jefferson has been postponed one week, meaning the team's first game could be Tuesday in Buena Vista. Looby is predicting another delay there due to weather, so the team could have an extra week of practice before it faces Alameda Friday - none of which are league games.
With some things still up in the air, lineups and positions will come down to what happens in the first few games.
"Like every sport, it's always a big questionmark at the beginning of the season," Looby said.