KINGWOOD, W.Va. — The list of accomplishments for the 2014 Preston baseball team is already a long one. Among them, a school record 16 victories and the first winning season in school history. Third year head coach John Chambers is striving to build a program that can play deep into the postseason each and every year.
“I want to have a program where we play with a lot of grit and have great toughness,” Chambers said. “There were a couple of teams when I was player here in the mid-90′s when we played that way. We are starting to get back to that.”
Preston has won back-to-back sectional championships and is awaiting a matchup with Morgantown in the regional semifinals next week on Tuesday, May 27th. A victory there would put the Knights in a regional final game for the first time in school history.
Chambers and his staff have made great strides in rebuilding a program that won just two games the year prior to his arrival.
“People need to realize what we are up against in Preston County,” Chambers said. “Baseball had really fallen off the table in our county. Our youth leagues have really kind of fallen off. We need to start developing kids at the youth level to continue to be competitive at the high school level.
“Then, with the state having control of the district at the county level, we have to have a self sufficient program by raising our own money.
“It’s a tough gig,” Chambers added. “But everything is moving in a positive direction. Anytime you can win back-to-back sectionals, it shows your program is moving in the right direction.”
The private money raising effort has led to a number of improvements at the baseball field at Preston including a long delayed project for lights and improvements to the playing surface itself.
The 2014 Preston team is senior laden and Chambers has praised their leadership and production, led by Big 10 Player of the Year Jimmy Galusky who will play at WVU starting next season.
“Jimmy (SS, P) is our program guy and one of the best players in the state,” Chambers said. “The other seniors have all played a big part. (OF) Levi Nolan and (UTL) Kyle Cool were also first team All-Big 10. Kurtis Petka and Ryan Nolan are the other seniors and they’ve improved every year.”
The key to this Preston team is its offense.
“To keep winning, we have to keep putting the ball in play,” said Chambers. “We’ve scored 256 runs this year including 25 in the sectional wins over University. We just haven’t developed pitchers so far like we’ve needed and that starts in the lower levels. But we’ve come around offensively because the kids put the work in all year around.
“The foundation is in place, but we’ve got to continue to grow by getting more kids out,” Chambers said. “We are a AAA program, but we’ve only got 19 kids out for baseball this year. We’ve got to continue to grow that number and get more athletes interested in playing baseball.”
Chambers is certainly proud of what this current group of players and coaches has accomplished and he’s hoping all the sports programs at Preston continue to grow with help from fans and the community.
“Everyone out here needs to get behind Preston High,” Chambers said. “The school has been here since 1991 and people are still upset over the consolidation. But Preston High is here and it’s not going anywhere and I just ask them support it. When you don’t, the only people that get hurt are the kids.”