By Ryan Malashock
Globe Sports Writer
GALENA, Kan. - Matt Glades' face rearranges into a half-grimace, half-frown. Anger and disappointment fight for supremacy in the Galena senior's reaction.
That's the result of merely mentioning the Bulldogs' 11-8 defeat in last year's Kansas Class 3A championship game.
"We were just so sad after it," said Glades, a pitcher and right fielder. "Our seniors deserved it. They really did. We wanted to send them out with a championship. Now, we want to go out with a championship."
Galena made the strongest run at its first state baseball title since 1979 with last year's late-season spurt.
Full with confidence from successful seasons in football and basketball, the Bulldogs feel as if they enter the 2006 baseball season with unfinished business.
One of eight seniors for Galena, which opened its season Tuesday with a dramatic 2-1 victory over Columbus, Travis Albright holds back little when discussing goals.
This athletic season, his senior class already has led the school's furthest trip into the state football playoffs and last trek to the state basketball quarterfinals in more than 50 years.
"Talking to Travis the other day," Galena coach Ken Cook said, "he was pretty up front about saying that they want to win a state championship. These guys got so close last season, and I saw a special twinkle in their eyes when they got out onto the field this year. They're hungry for that championship."
It nearly came a year ago. After besting Baxter Springs 1-0 in a regional championship game, Galena stormed through the Class 3A playoffs.
The Bulldogs rallied for an improbable 9-8 semifinal win over Thomas More Prep before falling short against Silver Lake.
"I don't think any of us will forget how we felt after that loss," Albright said. "I was still happy with the season, though. We got further than anyone thought we would, and that's let us be real confident for this season."
Just two pieces are missing from Galena's 20-6 team from a year ago. Leading pitcher, Mike Matthews, and leading hitter, Jeremiah David, both graduated. But beyond those departures, Galena's core stays intact, paced by the eight seniors who have been together since little league.
Albright, a left fielder, and Glades, who smacked a game-ending two-run homer Tuesday, provide power in the lineup. Senior shortstop Colby Walker leads off and anchors the infield, and senior Kellen Ryan has handled his transition to third base with ease.
"These seniors are a special group," Cook said. "They work so well together."
A few underclassmen fill in Galena's other positions. Juniors Darren Hooker (right field), Dustin Newman (second base) and Gabe Dart (center field) all earned starting positions.
Sophomore Mitch Albright opens the season as the Bulldogs' starting catcher and No. 4 batter in the lineup.
Cook said that no one pitcher would lead the Bulldogs' staff, at least early in the season.
"We don't have that stopper like Mike was for us," Cook said.
But with Glades, Hooker, Ryan, Mitch Albright and juniors Chris Faircloth and Justin McKeehan, Cook possesses multiple quality options.
"At some point in the season, someone will step up and be that guy," Cook said. "On paper, we should be pretty good this year. These kids want to go out with a bang, especially after getting so close last year."
By Ryan Malashock