by: TIMES PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - Southridge sophomore first baseman Jacob Calo, left, is a power hitter from the left side of the plate and he can also field his position effectively

Don’t worry about playing prizewinning-level of baseball around spring break.

Last May, an enigmatic Southridge squad finished third in the Metro League, but got hot at the right time, ripping off six straight wins to come within one ill-fated inning of reaching the 6A state championship game.

It was a detonative demonstration of a squad coming together down the home stretch of the season, of trusting the natural evolution of improvement and believing in the day-to-day process of habitually putting in work that brings about state playoff wins.

This style of making headway every day with an eye toward the end of the year has been adopted by the 2014 Skyhawks who understand they have huge gaps to fill on the hill and in the batting order. Players such as 2013 graduates Jacob Zanon, Reza Aleaziz, Tanner Green and Chandler Whitney don’t come along every day, of course.

Yet, despite getting clubbed by Clackamas, 12-0 in the second game of the season, Southridge is at ease about its current situation because it knows league championship trophies aren’t doled out in March.

“I see potential every time we get a practice in,” said junior pitcher Parker Stidham. “We’ll make plays to try and turn the momentum around, but you have to translate that into the dugout with the sticks. Overall, we’re strong defensively, but we have to hit.”

“We have to get back in the swing of things,” said senior shortstop Alex Beekman. “We just have to take it day-by-day to get better and get closer as a team. We’ll get it, it’ll just take a little bit of time. We have guys coming out who have played on JV, who have been in the program for four years now. And, we have 12 seniors so that experience is going to help us.”

Under the direction of new head coach Tim Mooney, Southridge has been fine-tuning its fundamentals early in the preseason, working on the basics so routine tasks become easy later during Metro play. Beekman said it’s on the Skyhawks to stay up on each other with positive encouragement and keep getting after it on the diamond no matter the score.

by: TIMES PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - Southridge senior Brannon Raines will pitch and play centerfield for the Skyhawks this season.

“When you have players who aren’t afraid to call you out on something, that’s when you start to get better,” said Beekman. “You get closer as a team and start learning what you need to do to win.”

“We can be really competitive in Metro as long as we stick together,” added infielder Jacob Calo. “Playing together, working hard as a unit, keeping everyone up and getting good situational hitting are going to be important.”

Southridge has a sound pitching staff with Stidham taking over the “Tuesday starter” role at the top of the rotation in place of Aleaziz. Senior right-hander Brannon Raines had a standout summer during the OIBA season in the second slot while fellow righties Bryce Roesch, Matthew Orcutt and David Knudsen can start or come out of the bullpen for the Skyhawks.

“I’m excited to get out there every Tuesday and kick off the series,” said Stidham. “And, batting up in the lineup I’m excited to get the momentum going with the sticks too.”

Beekman and Sam Rzpecki are a solid double-play combination that can erase base hits up the middle and help their pitchers get out of potential jams.

by: TIMES PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - Southridge senior infielder Ryan Rocereto and the Skyhawks believe theyll be solid defensively on the mound, but need to hit consistently.

Catcher Cameron Nowack can handle the pitching staff effectively and work hard behind the plate the same way Green did a year ago.

“A good season comes from having a strong pitching staff,” said Stidham. “Last year, when we had (Aleaziz) we basically had game one in the bag every time. If we can get that every three games, and get production out of our bats, we’ll be there.”

The Skyhawks’ season-long mission, however, is to hit the ball consistently and get guys on base so their pitchers don’t feel an excessive amount of pressure to be perfect every time out.

Stidham, Roesch, Beekman, Knudsen and Calo can all rake if they’re zoned in at the dish. Manufacturing runs — rather than hoping for the huge hit — is paramount Beekman said.

“We have to get the bat on the ball,” said Beekman. “We have to put the ball in play and make the defense make plays before we start to get fancy or cute with anything. That’s the biggest key, making the defense make plays.”

by: TIMES PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - Southridges Bryce Roesch can play a number of positions in the infield and outfield for the Skyhawks.

“We know we’re not a bunch of big hitters,” added Calo. “We take the approach of getting on base and having high on-base percentages. We take it one pitch at a time, one at-bat at a time.”

Phil Thoma, Austin Miles, Sam Greenwood, and Ryan Rocereto will each see time in utility roles in both the outfield and infield for Mooney, who coached the Skyhawk JV team last season and was a varsity assistant under Joe Monahan.

“We definitely have room to grow,” said Stidham. “The potential here is outstanding. I think we’re definitely going to be a contender this Metro season. It’s going to be fun.”

Westview, Jesuit and Beaverton all will contend in the always-tough Metro League.

“The Metro is always the toughest league in the state,” added Calo. “We know any day any team could beat any team because it’s that competitive. We’re going to fight for first place and we believe we can do it. We’re going to go out there with that approach.”

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