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Northwest Area stays confident notebook

Rangers started the season with six straight wins and hope to continue.

Confidence oozed from the Northwest Area bench as another run came across.

Spend one afternoon of baseball watching the Rangers, and it’s immediately apparent that they’re a close-knit squad.

“All of our attitudes are just ideal for a baseball team,” senior Dan Wido said. “Everybody’s positive and we’re all there for each other. Something bad happens, and everyone’s there to back each other up.”

Indeed, very little seems to faze this year’s Northwest roster, which is both vocal and focused. Take Monday’s road win against Wyoming Seminary, in which the Rangers fell behind by a run early before exploding ahead in the next inning.

Even when the Blue Knights rallied with a three-spot in the fourth, Northwest came right back with three runs to follow it.

It’s easy to have that kind of mentality after starting the season with six straight wins as the Rangers have.

“When you play like this for a while, you expect good things to happen,” Northwest coach Jim Hill said. “So you smile when it’s time to smile – before it changes.”

The Rangers are hoping it all adds up to postseason success. In 2006, they finished a game behind Bishop Hafey for the Wyoming Valley Conference Division III title, only to fall to the Vikings again in the District 2 Class A quarterfinals.

One of the biggest reasons for optimism is a group of eight seniors, most of whom have been playing together since Little League.

Starting catcher Wido is one of those seniors and has excelled in the early season, batting .524 and hitting his first home run against Seminary on Monday.

“All of our starting seniors on the team were in the 9- and 10-year-old district championship game,” Wido said. “And we won that game 19-0. It’s all gone from there.”

Midseason favorites

Though it’s only the midpoint of the regular season for most WVC teams, three squads have already staked their claims as favorites for their respective division titles.

Along with Northwest (6-0) in Division III, Wyoming Valley West (7-0 Division I) and Lake-Lehman (7-0 Division II) swept through their first trip through the schedule.

All three leaders have at least a two-game cushion on their opponents and all three have had excellent pitching to keep their undefeated streaks alive. Last season, no team in the entire league finished with fewer than three losses.

Midseason surprises

Buoyed by veteran lineups, both Tunkhannock (4-2 Division I) and Hanover Area (5-2 Division II) are having resurgent seasons in 2007.

After spending the past couple years near the bottom of their divisions, the Tigers and Hawkeyes have quickly shown that they mean business.

For Hanover, seniors A.J. Albee and Keenan McCann have been red hot at the plate with Dave Smith anchoring the pitching staff.

Tunkhannock’s trio of talented juniors – Corey Fassett, Will Zaleppa and top pitcher Tyler Austin – is hoping to keep the Tigers in contention throughout this season and next.

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