Grays Harbor’s 2A and 1A baseball teams are opening their season with varying degrees of expectations.
Aberdeen was scheduled to open its campaign with games this weekend. Hoquiam, Montesano and Elma will begin play, weather permitting, this week.
Aberdeen baseball’s has a roster full of youth with a lot to learn, but the Bobcats are hoping the roster can pull together by the time league play rolls around.
Bobcats head coach Shon Schreiber said the games early in the calendar will provide him the opportunity to get players innings on the mound.
“Our pitching staff is the whole team, pretty much,” he said. “Everyone is pitching, but Austin Timmons and Eli Brown and Brody Trader will probably will probably be the three pitchers we have with everyone else in relief.”
Offensively, the team will look to players like versatile Kylan Touch to spark the offense and hope for some contributions from fellow senior Josh Germeaux, but the batting order is far from set in stone.
“When we get runs in scoring position sometimes we can’t get them in. It’s a mental breakdown,” Schreiber said. “If we can score some runs we should do all right. It’s just a matter of getting these kids to believe.”
The lack of experienced depth will be a hurdle for the Bobcats, but that means Aberdeen will get a chance to throw some freshmen in the lineup, particularly in the outfield.
With only three seniors on the roster and bunch of underclassmen eager to prove themselves, Schreiber told his bench players and his junior varsity to be ready for varsity playing time as the lineup takes shape.
“We have the two teams divided but it’s a fluid situation,” he said. “I tell the kids that you can be coming up and down and switching jerseys.”
After only losing four seniors to graduation from last year’s league champions and regional qualifiers, the Bulldogs are loaded with upperclassmen leadership and ready to make a splash in the 1A ranks.
One player who figures to have a huge impact in his return for his senior year is third basemen Matthew Plato, who was voted league MVP last season.
The Bulldogs will also be expecting some good offensive numbers from outfielders Carson Klinger and Teegan Zillyett, who will see an increased role on this year’s squad.
The pitching staff will be led by Nate Kloempken and Evan Bates.
“I think last year was the learning curve for all that pitch-count stuff,” Monte head coach Mike Osgood said. “But I think we got a good handle on our guys, and we shouldn’t have an issue with any kind of pitch count this year.”
Pitching has been looking strong in early practices, but the bats are still working towards midseason form. Osgood said he expects the offense to come along the more batters are able to face live pitching in practice.
“I just want to focus on getting caught up. It seems like early in the year pitchers are a little bit ahead of the game,” he said. “We really want to focus on offense and get comfortable there and get the offensive timing down.”
“Forks and Elma are bringing back a lot of their core guys, but we like our chances this year to do well again this year,” Osgood said. “We expect to win every time we take the field, so we’ll go out there and see what happens.”
Longtime coach Jim Hill, who guided the Eagles to their first state baseball championship in 1994, is at the helm of the program after an extended break from coaching. Hill gave credit to his assistant coaches for making the transition easier but said the game hasn’t changed much in his absence.
“It’s been fantastic. The game of baseball doesn’t change, though,” he said. “We just try to be fundamentally sound and have a team philosophy and practice that philosophy.”
Teaching that philosophy to younger players will be a priority this season, as the Eagles lost eight seniors from last year.
Hill is hoping for some freshmen to step up, but Colten French, Cody Robinette, Carter Jacobson and Tysen Richardsen have already cemented their spot in Hill’s lineup.
With most of the team’s best players also expected to pitch, Hill said he is looking forward to see what his hurlers can do.
“They’re throwing well in practice and I’m excited about it,” he said. “If you’ve got some throwers you can compete, and we’ve got some kids who will be some quality throwers for us.”
Despite a disappointing season in 2017 when the team only won four games, Hill thinks this year’s team can hang with the top teams in the league this year.
“I expect to compete for a league championship,” he said. “We just have to practice like we can. If you’re going to be a champion we have to practice like a champion, and that’s what we talk about doing.”
Solid upperclass leadership, talented players returning from injury and a group of underclassmen who could find spots to make an impact has Hoquiam’s coaching staff really confident heading into the season.
State champions in 2015 and state runners-up the following year, the Grizzlies struggled through a star-crossed campaign last season.
“I think we have more pitching depth than we did last year, but we’re going to be able to hit one through nine,” said head coach Steve Jump. “Last year we were hitting one through six and our lineup is going to be strong top to bottom.”
With eight seniors on the roster, the Grizzlies are expecting at least six of them to see the starting lineup as Garrett Bradley, Walker Dunn, Sean McAllister and Marques Rivera will all see time on the mound and in the field.
Austin Krause will be providing some senior leadership in the outfield along with Jackson Folkers, who will see even more playing time this year.
The team will also benefit from having Payton Quintinilla back on the mound after being sidelined by an injury last season. He is expected to pitch and make contributions at the plate.
Jump said after getting derailed by injuries and bad luck last year, this team could be the one to make a push for a state title.
“I’m not trying to put too much on my team, but at the same time we have high expectations for this team to get back into districts, do well, get into regional and see what can happen,” he said. “You never what can happen when you get to the postseason. We’re pretty excited about this year.”