MISSOULA, Mont. - High school softball season is in full swing now across Montana and that means legion baseball is right around the corner. The Missoula Mavericks have had just one full week of practice outside on the diamond.
"The warehouse is great and all but being outside is a whole different feel, like the season is actually here and we're ready to go," says Mavericks first baseman Shane Olson. "It's senior year so I'm more excited than usual and I know all the guys are excited and it should be a fun year."
The Missoula Mavericks are always one of the top legion baseball teams in the state of Montana. Their season hasn't even started yet but this year's Mavericks squad is already focusing their work with one major goal in mind.
"The expectations are high as always," explains Olson. "I mean the goal every year is to win state."
"We better make a serious run at state," echoes senior catcher Slade Heggen.
"The ultimate goal is to get a state championship and head to regionals," says senior shortstop Jesson Preston.
Last season Missoula came up just one win short of a state title, losing to the Billings Royals in the championship game. But the Mavs roster this season is nearly identical to last year and that experience makes for one confident squad.
"It's great having everybody back," says Preston. "It gives us a lot of experience and that's going to be great going into that state tournament and it gives us a lot of guys that have great leadership too and that's great to have."
"I mean last year a lot of the guys were still juniors my age and we only had a couple older guys," recalls Heggen. "Now it's kind of reversed. We're all older and there's only a couple juniors. So just with the experience, the game is going to slow down for everybody and hopefully we'll be able to put the bat on the ball fast."
The Mavericks know they have a lot of work to do between now and state. Missoula says the biggest focus after a long winter of being contained indoors is to get their arms and bodies back into baseball condition.
"I think the biggest focus is getting our pitchers' arms ready. We're always going to have great bats," said Preston.
"Hopefully the weather holds up and we need to get back in shape," said Olson. "That's kind of the main goal."
Opening day is now less than a week away for Missoula as the Mavericks will host the Great Falls Chargers this coming Sunday.
"It's all anyone is talking about and I think we'll be ready," says Preston.
"Oh it's the best feeling," says Heggen. "I always go through like three months before the season starts of anxiety just waiting, always thinking about this game."
"Baseball is starting up, I mean this is the time of year I live for," says Olson. "Hopefully the weather stays up because last year our first day got snowed out but if the weather stays up and everything stays nice I couldn't be more excited."
Right now forecasts are calling for temperatures in the 50's to possibly 60's. Hopefully Missoula's season opener won't get snowed out this time around.