By Patrick Carson

OXFORD HILLS —  “As a team they’re embracing the challenge,” was the comment made by Oxford Hills fall baseball coach Gary Williamson regarding the 2018 Vikings Varsity Baseball program.

“These boys know they have the opportunity to do something special in 2018. They’ve been in this situation before when they were 13 and 14 years old, now they have to apply it at the Varsity level.”

The challenge Williamson is referring to is the combination of hard work that occurs in the off-season and the opportunity to make a State Championship run in 2018.

“This group of kids are expecting to win a State Championship,” explained Williamson. “These boys are getting up at 6:30 a.m. on Sunday mornings to be out on the field by 8. This is step one of the off-season program and they’re getting ready for next year with everything they do.”

What was a young team a year ago, now seems to be a veteran team as they look toward 2018. The off-season effort seems to be paying off for the Vikings, who on this past October Sunday defeated an All-Star Portland Travel Team 6-0 and 8-0 in a double header.

University of Maine Head Baseball Coach Nick Derba was on hand at Tim Bryant Memorial Field for the recent double header against the 18U Maine Lightening travel team.

“This is the fourth time this year I have seen Oxford Hills play in person.” commented Derba.

“I like what I see. They’re tough and fundamentally sound, but I also notice players making adjustments to better their game. Earlier this year, it seemed that breaking balls were a weakness, but after watching them today, that seems to be changing.”

The hard work will continue throughout the year for the upcoming 2018 Vikings. A strength and conditioning program, trip to Virginia in March for a long weekend of preseason games and thousands of swings in the batting cage will occur in the off-season, all while most players will participate in other sports.

Derba expanded on the importance of playing multiple sports by adding: “As a program, we look for two and three sport athletes. Programs and athletes in general that support multi sport participation are doing a great service for the student-athlete in every way. The ability to compete in different venues promotes just that, competition. Players learn how to cope with different stressors and react accordingly.”

The hard work that is being put in seems to be building a tightknit positive culture among the players. “We love playing together and we feed off of each others work and success,” explained shortstop/pitcher Janek Luszka.

Willamson added, “It’s important that in the off season, we don’t instill a feeling of complacency. You don’t want to develop a culture in the offseason where players show up on game day only and expect to play, they have to want to put the work. We want to win a State title and if we fall short, it won’t be because of a lack of effort. This is a blue collar, hard working team. They take after head Varsity coach Shane Slicer, Coach Ouifiero and Coach Bean. We wouldn’t want it any other way.”

The Vikings finished the fall baseball season with a 10-0 record.

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