Senior pitcher Caden Reinke returns for the Cougars.

During the first week of nearly any previous baseball season, Cascade veteran varsity coach Roamn Hummel almost always said the same thing — we’re working on transitioning the boys out of school-mode and into baseball-mode.

Describing the events leading up to the official kick-off of high school summer sports as “unprecedented,” while true, has become a tiresome trope that’s been echoed across newspapers and the airwaves for months on end.

However, it isn’t cliché to say the 2020 season is slated to be nontraditional in every sense of the word, nor is it a hackney turn of phrase to say “school-mode” this year is unrecognizable to years passed.

Regardless, the boys of summer are ready to trade the indoor isolation for the outdoor camaraderie.

For Cascade, opening day was June 15 with districts starting less than a month later on July 11. If things go well for the Cougars, substate could start July 21 followed by state play July 27.

For comparison, last year’s opening day doubleheader with Independence was hosted on May 20.

Although the Cougars will have a relatively young team this year, the decision to get these guys varsity-level playing experience when they were underclassmen could be a big payoff in the long run.

“Even though we lost a great group of seniors, we still return a number of good players from last year,” Hummel said. “Our younger guys gained valuable experience last year and that will help.”

The Cougars are returning a handful of starters, including senior pitcher and outfielder Caden Reinke, junior pitcher and shortstop Eli Green (named all-conference), junior pitcher and first basemen Kaleb Topping, junior third basemen Ted Weber and sophomore outfielder Tanner Simon.

Hummel said he is also expecting big contributions from senior pitcher/outfielder/infielder Carter Green, freshman pitcher and infielder Mason Otting, freshman outfielder Jack Menster, freshman catcher Cade Rausch and sophomore infielder/pitcher Justin Roling.

On the mound, Hummel said he sees a lot of good stuff coming from their starters, but there is always room for improvement.

“Our front-end pitching will be very good,” Hummel said. “We need to find more depth in our pitching staff and need some younger guys to step up. Having Carter Green back healthy will help our staff depth.”

Conference-wise, Hummel predicts a tough West Branch team that’s loaded with seniors, an Anamosa team with a good pitching staff, and a Durant team comprised of veteran players.

The Cougars finished the 2019 season in first place in the North Division of the River Valley Conference with a 24-11 overall record (14-4 in district play).

This year’s starters have some big shoes to fill after the Cougars have graduated another strong senior class, including Reid Rausch, Wil Roling, Riley Reed, Tom Knepper, Logan Otting and Haris Hoffman.