Centerville -- The season-opener for the Indian Hills Falcons is slated for later this week, with first-year head coach Matthew Torrez preparing his squad for a tough early-season slate of games, that includes a doubleheader at No. 9-ranked Crowder College on Thursday.
Torrez takes over the IHCC program after spending the previous six years as the head coach at Trinidad State Junior College in Colorado where his teams compiled a record of 222-126 and won five straight Region IX tournament championships.
He has inherited an Indian Hills team that has seven position players returning from last season's 36-22 squad, but only one pitcher who saw action on the mound for the Falcons a year ago.
"We have only one sophomore -- Jordan Bahnuk -- back on the mound from last year," Torrez says. "So our 12 freshmen pitchers will need to adapt quickly to the college game to help us be successful." Bahnuk was 4-1 as a freshman with a 3.12 ERA that was second-best on the staff.
On the offensive side, the Falcons return quite a bit more experience with seven players who saw action in 2018. Jameson Hart, Alex Fisher, Declan Buckle, Jet Weber, Jay Hester, Jake Kristensen and Soren Graverson all got at-bats last season. Hart appeared in the most games of the seven, 54, and hit .258. Weber sports the best returning batting average, hitting .330 as a freshman. Hester batted .301 in 49 games, Buckle .269 in 44, Fisher .237 in 17, and Kristensen .211 in 19 appearances.
"Offensively we have more sophomores that will be playing for us," Torrez explains, "so those guys will carry us this season. Their leadership will be a key for us."
When asked what he learned during the fall season, his first chance to see his players in game action, Torrez says, "I really feel like the team wants to be coached and prepare themselves for great things in the future. They have been really receptive to the new coaching staff and that makes us excited to go to work on a daily basis."
After opening with a pair of games against Crowder, Indian Hills will travel to Oklahoma City, Okla. to play Frank Phillips (Tex.) and Coffeyville (Kans.) this Saturday and Barton (Kans.) Sunday. IHCC is scheduled to take on Metropolitan CC in Kansas City Feb. 23 and 24.
"We have a tough non-conference schedule with several ranked teams," the first-year coach points out. "We will be tested early to get a gauge on where we are. If we can hold our own early I think it will be important for us mentally."
As for preparing for his first season as a head coach in Iowa, Torrez says, "It is a great feeling here at Indian Hills, with the facilities and support you receive. It makes the coaches and players understand that it is a wonderful institution to be a part of. My wife, Patti, and I are really excited to be a part of the Indian Hills family. There is a wonderful tradition set in place from former coaches like Pat Daugherty, Rick Mathews and Cam Walker and it is our job to keep that tradition going."
The Falcons' home opener will be Saturday, Mar. 2, against Century College at Pat Daugherty Field.