Get your souvenirs now for Astoria Baseball, 2010 - The Farewell Tour.
Say good-bye to what will likely be the most successful senior class in school history (and their coach?), as the Fishermen make a rerun for another state championship, their third in five years.
"There's kind of a beginning, middle and end to every season," said Astoria coach Dave Gasser. "I'm excited about getting it started. We'll try to avoid the finality as long as possible. We'll try to play as long as we can, and take one day at a time."
Rumor has it Gasser will retire following the 2010 season.
"I always take one year at a time," said Oregon's all-time winningest high school coach. "But five is a round number, and this will be 30 varsity seasons. We'll see. A lot of people said last year would have been an intelligent time to go out, after four years and winning the state title. But I've never been one to be real logical with that. There's always a lot of good kids coming back that you don't want to leave."
Gasser enters 2010 with a career record of 634 wins, 190 losses.
If all goes according to plan, he will add another 25 or so victories, along with his first back-to-back state championship titles.
The Fishermen are the obvious choice to repeat. In most preseason polls - official and unofficial - they're either ranked No. 1 or 2.
"I would guess that (No. 1 ranking), being the defending champions with seven guys back," Gasser said. "If you picked us as No. 2, I'd like to know who they picked as No. 1."
Still, he said, "the fact remains, it comes down to winning four do-or-die games, and you might have to spend five nights in hotels to do it. It's never easy. You never know. I wouldn't want to do last year's (playoff run) again. That was not easy. Nobody handed us anything."
Astoria hosted just one state playoff (vs. North Marion) last year, before hitting the road for games at Ontario and Hidden Valley.
A few Scappoose fans boldly predicted that the Indians would challenge the Fishermen last year. The result: Astoria outscored Scappoose 19-0 in the first two games, and the Fish won the third meeting, 6-2. So much for the challenge.
Over the last four years, Astoria is an incredible 58-2 in league games, with the only losses to Scappoose in 2008 and Seaside in 2006.
Ten of Astoria's 15 league wins a year ago were by 10-plus runs. Look for more of the same this year, while the Indians will look to steal a game or two from the Fish.
"Scappoose will be the best league opponent we've had," Gasser said. "They have a lot of all-league kids back, and some good pitching. They are a good team, and they're good in the right places. They will be a legitimate top-eight team.
"Seaside has good kids, Joel (Dierickx) does a good job. (Ian) Dueber is not going to be an easy pitcher to beat. They had a good JV, and just enough seniors. (Erik) Knutsen swings it and Dueber is going to throw well, so it won't be easy. I like our league this year."
"There's a number of good teams around the state," Gasser said, including Hidden Valley and Marist, making its last appearance at the 4A level.
"Nobody's going to want us to repeat," he said. "Outside of Astoria, nobody's going be saying, 'Dang, I want Astoria to win it again.' We have to take care of ourselves and take on all comers. We're not going to sneak up on anyone.
"We lost one game to a 6A team (Southridge) last year, and we felt bad to give up a two-run lead in the seventh inning as our only loss."
Unbelievable as it may seem - with all the success the Fishermen have had over the last four years - Gasser may have the best group of players he's ever coached at Astoria.
The Fish have three pitchers who could be No. 1 pitchers for most 4A teams in the state, with a first-team all-state catcher.
They've got seven returning all-league players (six of whom were all-state), including three of their four infielders.
They lost the 4A Co-Player of the Year Jordan Poyer and all-leaguer Mason Brause, but the Fish are still loaded to the gills with talent.
The lineup, starting on the mound: The No. 1 pitcher is Taylor Landwehr, Astoria's best one-sport athlete.
"He's taller, stronger, more mature ... he looks really good," Gasser said. "The thing I like about Tay is that he won't complete his physical maturity until he's 22 or 23 years old. If I was a college coach, I'd love to have him on my team. Redshirt him a year, and by the time he's 20, he's going to be 6-3, 190 pounds and throwing pretty hard."
Behind Landwehr, Astoria has Max Johnson and Conor Harber, along with future starters Jon Fick, Todd Cooper and Taylor Fox, "and we have some freshmen and sophomore kids who look very promising," Gasser said. "A couple lefties. The cupboard's not going to be bare next year, by any means."
And, he said, Landwehr, Johnson and Harber "all throw hard, with decent breaking balls. We just need to play good defense behind them. You figure at some point in the playoffs, you have to win with three runs. You just have to pitch and play defense good enough to hold people to two."
At catcher ... Dane Lund. There aren't many runners who can or will challenge Astoria's all-state catcher.
"He's a very, very, good receiver. He's very mature, loves the game, and he has the charisma to motivate. He can call his own game like Brendan (Landwehr) did his senior year."
The infield ... for the first time in years, first base won't be manned by a Brause brother.
"It's a position that Garrett Puckett could play, and it's a position Keifer Lucore played all last summer, and is looking pretty good at," Gasser said. "I could put Jacob Davis there as well."
The rest of the infield could be the deciding factor in Astoria's drive for another state title.
The lineup is experienced, solid, often plays error-free, and they're all part of Astoria's lethal batting order.
Second base is reserved for senior Ian Erickson - great range up the middle, and part of Astoria's outstanding double play combo with shortstop Marc Gallegos, a junior.
At third base, 2010 is shaping up to be another all-state season for senior Marcus Brown, one of Astoria's most powerful hitters.
All three were all-league, and likely will be again.
The outfield will include regulars such as Harber and Johnson, with any number of possibilities for the third spot.
Gasser can plug Davis in anywhere, including the infield, outfield or catcher.
"I wouldn't be surprised if Jake isn't the kid who replaces Dane and catches next year," Gasser said.
"Todd and Drew Cooper will be new faces on the varsity. Dylan Clodgo, Trygve Olson, Jon Fick and Taylor Fox - they're all juniors, and a number of those kids will develop into the players who will be able to replace the six openings next year."
History in the Making?
Historically, "it's got a chance to be as deep as we've ever been," Gasser said. "But to be honest, depth doesn't matter as much as, 'How does your ace match up with the best aces in the state?' Because ultimately that's what it ends up being.
"Your depth doesn't really help you when you're matched up against a guy who's going to get drafted. And there's actually a few 4A guys who could get drafted. (Zach) Nice from La Grande is probably going to get drafted, and so is (Brady) Kirkpatrick from Marist.
"We can go 10 deep with vets, but 10 vets doesn't necessarily mean that much," he said. "The two years we won state championships, we had a minimal number of vets. We had none in '06 - nobody that was a returning starter - and won it.
"Then the next year we had seven returners and lost in the semis (at La Grande)."
Gasser will have his usual first-rate coaching staff, which includes Brian Babbitt, Ralph Steinback and Ryker Thornton (varsity); and Scott Fitchett, Glen Fromwiller and Gordon Thomson with the junior varsity. Mathias Brause has volunteered time as a pitching coach.
Barring injury or the complete collapse of the universe, the Fishermen will be league champions again. Look for the Fish to make their annual appearance at Keizer Stadium in June.
The experience factor will also be a key.
"There's a lot of stuff that these kids will be able to do on their own," Gasser said. "They can almost anticipate when we're going to run first and third's and why. Hopefully they can anticipate, and that's the best way to play the game. To be one step ahead of it.
"Ultimately, my job is to prepare them in practice, work on situations and help them think ahead of time, instead of after the fact. And if I've done a good job, I can enjoy games."
Coach: Dave Gasser, 5th year
2009: 27-1 (15-0 Cowapa League)
Playoffs: State champions
All-League losses: Jordan Poyer (MVP); Mason Brause (1B), 1st team.
All-League returners: Taylor Landwehr (P), 1st team; Dane Lund (C), 1st team; Ian Erickson (2B), 1st team; Marcus Brown (3B), 1st team; Marc Gallegos (SS), 1st team; Max Johnson (OF), 1st team; Jacob Davis (Util.), 1st team.