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story.lead_photo.caption Democrat photo/Kevin LabotkaRussellville Indians baseball players practice on March 11.

The Russellville Indians baseball team is looking to repeat as district champions for the fourth consecutive season this spring.

The Indians finished last season with a record of 19-10 and won their third district championship in a row after defeating Iberia 12-0 in the semifinal round and Eugene 3-2 in the championship game of the Class 2 District 9 Tournament.

The Indians' season ended in a 6-5 loss to Skyline in the sectional round of the Class 2 state tournament.

Head coach Lucas Branson said this year, the goals for the team start and end with getting better every day and winning another district championship.

"We feel like we have a lot of talent returning and with the newcomers fighting for playing time, winning districts is definitely an attainable goal," Branson said. "From there, it becomes how great can we be and play into the first week of June."

So far in practices this preseason, Branson said the team has been working on the fundamentals.

"The first couple of weeks are always going to be spent working on basic fundamentals and (building) on that foundation," Branson said. "We obviously want to get our pitchers' arms in shape and ready for action and the workload that we want to have each of them be ready for as we start playing games."

The team opens its season at noon Saturday against Knob Noster and Lafayette County at Knob Noster.

Branson said in the early parts of the season, the biggest thing he wants to see is the team competing every day and each member being focused on making themselves and the team better.

"We have several positions that we are still working on finding players that fit into, so we have a lot of guys moving around working on individual skills at certain positions that will eventually make our team very good," Branson said.

The team's pitching staff will be the team's main strength, according to Branson. Another strength is the team's speed and athleticism.

"We have everyone healthy and feel like we can go seven-eight deep at the varsity level, and we have a couple more pitchers at the JV level that are continuing to improve that could potentially be called upon if needed," Branson said. "Another strength is our speed and athleticism at every position. That speed and athleticism should also translate into us being aggressive (while) base running, which will help our offense."

The team's approach at the plate on offense is the main weakness that Branson said the team will be working on.

"We are making sure to dedicate time every day to our offense, so I believe that will help as the season begins," Branson said.

The team has a lot of confidence before the season starts and is staying focused, Branson said.

"Our guys have a lot of confidence because they know what kind of team we can be when we play at a high level," Branson said. "Our focus is on doing that every day and making sure that we don't become overconfident and take working hard for granted. We talk about playing with a perfect effort all the time and as long as we do that, our confidence in each other will remain high. One of the things I like to tell our guys is not to get too high but also never get too low, so it is important for us to have confidence but also remain grounded enough to realize we can always get better."

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