When the Westview (Robinson Construction) baseball squad broke up its final postgame meeting of the summer outside of Tigard High School on Saturday, there was an unmistakable impression of excitement.

Yes, Westview had just lost in the OIBA season-ending tournament semifinals, 1-0 to Clackamas. But, what the Wildcats accomplished just to reach the semis, winning five straight games in the consolation bracket after dropping a 3-1 decision to Jesuit last week, is highly credible.

Couple that gumption with how much raw, blossoming talent Westview has coming back in the spring and it was all head coach Steve Antich could do to not beam with enthusiasm. Next year, if things break right, Westview could have something memorable, Antich believes.

“We’re not going to win every game, but anybody that beats us is going to have to bring it,” said Antich. “The ceiling, hopefully, is the state championship. That’s our goal. If guys work and get a little bigger, faster, stronger and mature, there’s no reason we can’t do it. Such a big core of our team is underclassmen...almost all of the guys who can take us to that next TIMES PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - Westview third baseman Kenyon Yevon runs off the field after tagging out a Clackamas base runner.

“I can’t wait to get back on the field next year. Everybody wants more, and that couldn’t be a better feeling,” continued Antich. “There’s been seasons in my 18 years of coaching, where about this time of the year, I’m ready to be somewhere else. But, not today. I’d give anything to be out there and playing one more game with these guys.”

Played hard

The last time Westview won a 6A state championship in 2011, its OIBA squad won the season-ending summer tournament 11 months prior. To Antich, who’s been around the block and seen firsthand how summer triumphants convey into spring success, the last two months will be essential to the Wildcats’ 2014 prospects. The long layoff in-between seasons is merely a small barrier to cross when Westview reconvenes in March.

“To me, the summer is hugely important,” said Antich. “We have such a short little window in preseason before we start playing, that we needed to put all these young guys together and see what they could do. We let them compete and get a taste. We found out who we are and what kind of team we’re going to be, and that’s what the summer is all about.”

Westview played hard and well against Clackamas in a pitcher’s duel between the Wildcats’ Parker Kelly and the Cavaliers’ Jared Bell. Kelly, a rising junior, only allowed four hits and struck out in six innings and a third. Kelly was pulled for Taylor Stofiel in the top of the seventh and traded his pitcher’s mitt for his infielder’s glove. Promptly, the quicksilver-handed Kelly turned an unassisted twin killing from his shortstop position to get the out of the stanza.

“I was just trying to keep them off-balance,” said Kelly. “I wanted to get ahead with strike one, keep the ball down in the zone, get some ground balls and trust my defense. They made some good plays behind me, and that gives a pitcher a lot of confidence when you have a strong defense behind you.”by: TIMES PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - Westview shorstop Taki Ishi fields a top hopper in the OIBA semifinals against Clackamas.

Kelly blooped a single to left — one of only four base hits for Westview — in the seventh, but the Wildcats couldn’t bring the tying run across. Clackamas’ only run came in the third after Garret Myers doubled and later scored, running from second to home on a groundout to third.

“We played them really tough, but a break goes their way, a break goes our way, that’s just how baseball is,” said Kelly. “You can’t really control that, you just have to give 100 percent, and I think that’s what our team did.”

“I felt like we had more opportunities than they did,” said Antich. “We just couldn’t get the key hit. It was a pretty well-played baseball game on both ends. The pitching was great. It wasn’t going to be easy to put any crooked numbers up. Every run was vital.”

A brewing battle

In the face of the loss, Antich said he’s looking forward to the brewing battle for the Wildcats’ three starting spots in the pitching rotation with Kelly, Yovan, Teagan Lind and Taylor Stofiel campaigning for jobs. One has to believe Yovan and Kelly are penciled in at the top, but Antich said it’s anybody’s gig to take. Yovan experienced a breakout summer, overpowering teams with high-powered fastballs, and at one point early in the summer, threw three straight no-hitters. Kelly and Yovan make up a two-headed monster that’ll rival Jesuit’s Christian Martinek and Colton French in the Metro League.

“We just have to keep our mindsets straight,” said Yovan. “We have to throw strikes, hit our spots, pitch to contact, not try to overpower everybody. We don’t have to do anything too big, just stay within the zone because we have a great defense.”

Yovan said Westview’s summer was put in forward motion with additions of outfielder Jaden Hanna, Colton Sakamato, Andy Schubert and pitcher Brady Johnson, four more talented underclassmen filling up the gap left by graduating seniors.

Hanna, Sakamato and Schubert made a slew of impressive defensive plays roaming the Wildcat outfield and tallied key RBIs in clutch moments on Westview’s trip back through the winner’s bracket. Second baseman Nolan Minter, shortstop Taki Ishi, catcher Brad Even and Yovan at third saw valuable time around the infield.

“It helped a lot with all the kids supporting me,” said Hanna. “The older players believed in me, and so I never gave up. I just pushed myself and kept going. We’ll see how it goes next year. Hopefully, I can have a spot somewhere. I’ll do the best I can, but we’ll see. As a team, we’re not afraid to make mistakes, we just go 100 percent all the time. We battle.”

Focus on precision

Yovan, a fire-throwing sophomore, said pitching coach Jim Boulden helped him rein in his 88 mph fastball and locate his off-speed selections with better precision.

“The coaches did an amazing job helping me and helping everybody else get better this summer,” said Yovan. “It’s amazing how much everybody worked hard and just did everything they needed to in spots that they needed to. It all worked out in the long run.”

“We battled throughout the whole tournament,” continued Yovan. “We just got a little tired and lost a little energy early in the dugout and on the field. It is what it is. We just didn’t put the ball in play as much as we needed to. But, we battled, and we’re looking good for next year.”

The past two years, Westview has been highly ranked going into the 6A playoffs, but each instance has been unceremoniously bounced in the first round. Kelly admitted it’s been tough on some of the players, including himself. The junior was a freshman on the 2011 state title team and is aware of the high expectations set on the Wildcats every March.

Yet, with so many gifted players, like Hana and Yovan upgrading the team’s overall aptitude, Kelly is confident Westview won’t be one-and-done again.

“It was good to see those guys join some big roles,” said Kelly. “The older guys are taking some of the younger guys under their wings, and I think we’re really going to do some damage next year. Hopefully, everybody works hard in the offseason, like we’ve been talking about, and come out firing next year.”

“Our guys wanted it,” said Antich. “Sometimes you don’t see that in the summer, but these kids wanted it. Maybe it gives us a little bit of a taste of what they’re capable of and a little bit of motivation to come next spring a little bit better.”

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