Sandy baseball was at a disadvantage, according to Luebbert
by: Pamplin Media Group, Sandy second baseman Brad Martin fields a ground ball against the Milwaukie Mustangs this season. The Pioneers spent much of their year practicing indoors, and that hurt the team in games.

If you're looking for the Sandy baseball team, odds are you'll find it inside, making do with what it has.

Some players might be in the upstairs gym, taking swings in the one makeshift batting cage. Others probably will be sprinting through the hallways, narrowly avoiding the students still in the building. Maybe the wrestling mats will be rolled out in the cafeteria, in order for the team to conduct situational drills.

But how well does all this translate to games?

Lets just say Garet Luebbert believes his team was sometimes at a disadvantage.

'We try to do the best we can, and we do a good job with the facilities and situations we have,' Sandy's baseball coach says. 'But the truth is, those teams that are out there on the east side, playing on the fields every day, and those teams with turf fields that can get out there and do situational things every day are at an advantage.'

Fortunately for the Pioneers, indoor practices should become less frequent next season because of the new turf fields, which are already under construction. In an effort to expand their readiness for the rain, the team is also fundraising for a hitting facility.

But this year, Sandy had to endure one more season of practices often relegated to gyms and hallways. In fact, Luebbert says that his team practiced on the baseball field only five or six times during the regular season, an increase from three or four times in 2011.

'A lot of people are in the same boat,' Luebbert says. 'Not everybody, but a lot of people are. And that's why it's so important for us to get these turf fields and to try to put in a hitting facility. You look at 75 percent of the schools and they got them. And that's where we're falling behind.'

Without those facilities this year, Sandy showed rust in certain facets of the game. From fielding to defensive situations to offensive situations, the Pioneers, at times, struggled all the way up until the final game of the season.

In the first round of the 5A playoffs, Pioneer miscues allowed Bend to erase a four-run deficit and steal a walk-off 6-5 victory May 23.

They committed three errors in the final two innings. They didn't convert on three double play opportunities. Twice they put runners in scoring position with no outs and didn't score - and a runner forgot to tag up on one of those occasions.

'You can look at the things that held us down as a team, and it is pressure situations, situational stuff. It's team situational stuff, offensively, defensively,' Luebbert says. 'Coaches will tell you that you have to look for ways to put your kids in pressure situations and compete at practice to make it realistic and for them to be more successful in those situations in games. And you can't do it when you're hitting in one cage indoors for 95 percent of your practices. It's very, very hard.'

The Pioneers spent the majority of the year, through spring break, indoors. On those days they would roll out the wrestling mats and try to simulate a small-scale field. It allowed them to work on bunt coverages and situational stuff.

It was still largely inadequate compared to outdoor practices.

'Getting on a baseball field helps your defense more than anything,' Luebbert says.

After spring break, the weather improved. However, when Sandy could be outside, it was usually playing games. Ten regular season games were postponed this year, so when the weather would cooperate, the Pioneers would make up contests.

And since a baseball field was seemingly a foreign setting, at times, players sometimes looked lost.

'The bottom line is, when it hits the fan, kids forget, and they go back to what's comfortable,' Luebbert says. 'And if you can put them in that situation consistently, then they don't (forget), and they react better.'

But with turf fields available in the 2013 season, Luebbert hopes to hold regular outdoor practices, providing the time needed to rehearse techniques and situations.

Will this result in more fundamentally sound Sandy teams?

'With new turf fields next year, we'll be able to work on some of those things a lot more, and you'll see the difference,' Luebbert says. 'But the proof is going to be, ask me three or four years down the line, and I can tell you accurately. But I would be shocked if it doesn't.'

Reporter Kristopher Anderson can be reached by email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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