A little experience can do wonders for a team's confidence. Just ask the Pacheco baseball team, which is a year older.
"We kind of all grew up in a way. Everyone's kind of changed," starting pitcher Omar Sierra said. "We're a whole team this year."
And while this may be the first year for head coach Joey Costa, the Cal State-Stanislaus graduate has spent the last nine years on the coaching staff at Modesto Junior College -- two as a general assistant and seven as the pitching coach.
"I didn't necessarily try to hype myself, but they all eventually found out that I'm coming from college, and I was a college baseball coach," Costa said. "So I think that right away was exciting for a team that wasn't as successful last year. I have high expectations, and I'm hoping that they do to."
In Pacheco's first varsity season last year, the Panthers won two games with a sophomore-heavy team. This year, the team boasts three seniors and 14 juniors, and will play a full slate of 27 games, the maximum allowed by the CIF.
"Right now, I've got a lot of guys competing for different spots," Costa said. "I've got eight different guys that can pitch -- all at different capacities, obviously. But when we're playing three or four games in a weekend, we're going to need that many arms to get us through. We'll be able to get things ironed out here in a few weeks."
Leading that staff of arms will be Sierra and his fastball, and Sierra is excited about playing more games.
"They made us work so hard all year, since the summer," Sierra said. "I feel like they gave us all these games, so the work's going to pay off with all these games. I'm looking forward to playing all 27 of them -- plus playoffs."
Behind him will be mostly the same team as last year, but with more confidence, experience and maturity.
"We're expecting a winning season this year. Way better than last year, obviously," infielder Kenneth Remulla said. "We've got a new staff out here. They know what they're talking about. We know where they come from and everything, so we understand."
Costa's staff includes Carlos Rodriguez, who coaches defensive backs for the football team, and Willie Frederick, who leaves after the high school season to play independent-league pro ball. Greg Alvarez takes over the sophomore team.
"We started from the ground up with fundamentals. We broke it down to its finer little details," Remulla said. "It's a hard-working team. You'll see this season. We're not giving up.
"We're going to prove a point, that we can come back. We're a team."