Spring is puzzle season for Ken Hibbard and the Bayfield Wolverines.
Spring is also baseball season.
Then again, it's always baseball season for Hibbard, the longtime Bayfield High School baseball coach.
Spring just happens to be the season when Hibbard doubles as puzzle master, locking together the jigsaw pieces of a high school baseball team - a team that's gone to the Class 3A playoffs nine of the last 10 years.
This year, Hibbard and the Wolverines will open the season with a few pieces missing - scattered from the basketball court to the doctor's office.
"We're a little limited right now. But, we'll be OK," Hibbard said this week after the Wolverines held a preseason scrimmage with Durango High School.
"We've got ... three starters playing basketball. And we've got one (returning starter) hurt," Hibbard said. "But that's the nature of high school baseball."
Three prominent baseball players will be on the basketball court today in Aspen, the same day the Wolverines open the baseball season in Buena Vista.
The Bayfield boys basketball team qualified for the Class 3A Regionals last weekend at the Intermountain League District tournament. The basketball Wolverines will take on host Aspen in the first round of regional play. If they win, they'll play again Saturday in the regional championship, with a chance to play yet another week at the State Tournament.
Logan Funkhouser, Jared Qualls and Ryan Terry of the Wolverines are currently wearing their basketball uniforms.
They'll make the switch to baseball uniforms at the conclusion of their basketball season.
All three, ironically, are expected to see pitching duty this year for Bayfield along with returning senior standout Jeff Huffmyer.
"He's on track to pitch a lot of innings for us," Hibbard said of Huffmyer, who also will anchor the batting order for the Wolverines.
Huffmyer pitched a couple of innings against Durango this week, posting four strikeouts.
"They hit him a little, too," Hibbard said.
He added that the Wolverines had good, productive at-bats in the first preseason scrimmage.
Another Wolverine, Brenden Harrison, participated in the State Wrestling Championships a week ago, and he's just rejoined the baseball crew.
"Brenden will bat up at the top of the lineup," Hibbard said, looking at an eventual heart of the order that features Funkhouser, Huffmyer and Qualls.
Shea Conrad, Bayfield's starting catcher from a year ago, is battling a leg injury, and his status is unclear for the season.
"He can pound the ball," Hibbard said. "He's been lights out."
Hibbard said his playing time, however, depends on his physical situation.
A couple of freshmen should see playing time this year, including Derek MacGuffie and Colt Walker.
Walker may wind up as the regular catcher.
"He just wants to go out and play," Hibbard said. "He's a get-dirty, grind-it-out kind of player. And he plays anywhere."
Yet another player, Jesse Krueger, hopes to double during the spring by playing baseball and running track.
"He's one of the best ... athletes at Bayfield, but it'll be tough. We'll see how it works," Hibbard said.
Per usual, the BHS coach said the Wolverines will be a bit on the thin side - another fact of life in 3A Colorado prep baseball.
"We're thin ... real thin," he said.
A transfer from Arizona, junior Logan Kerr, will help.
"He's been working real hard. He's definitely going to be in the mix," said Hibbard, who enters his 11th season as the BHS head coach. He was an assistant at Durango High School for 10 seasons before taking over at Bayfield.
The Wolverines officially open the season at 3 p.m. today at Buena Vista, another team with players on a regional playoff basketball team.
Bayfield will play at Salida at 10 a.m. Saturday.
The next two weekends, Bayfield will hit tournament play.
First, the Wolverines will play in the Hotchkiss Tournament on March 13-14.
Then, on March 19-21, BHS will play in the Montezuma-Cortez Tournament.
The first home game for the Wolverines will be April 4, an Intermountain League doubleheader against Pagosa Springs.