Baseball: Sherwood isn't hiding the fact that it's aiming at the Class 5A state title
SHERWOOD - They're not trying to keep it a secret.
The Bowmen are aiming high - very high.
Well, how about the very, very top.
The Sherwood High School baseball team, loaded with talented returning players, has its sights set on the gold in the 2011 season.
'We're shooting for the whole ball of wax,' Sherwood coach Jon Strohmaier said. 'We're shooting for the state championship - and I think we've got a legitimate chance of doing it.'
There's reason for Sherwood's optimism. After all, the Bowmen have nearly everybody back from last year's squad that won the Northwest Oregon Conference championship with a 16-5 league mark while going 19-8 on the season.
And, while the Bowmen may be strong all over the diamond, they may be at their strongest when it comes to their pitching staff.
Leading the way for Sherwood on the mound will be a pair of returning standout senior right-handers in Tanner Kichler and Jordan Ramp.
'They're our co-No. 1 pitchers,' Strohmaier said.
Last year, Ramp was named the NWOC Pitcher of the Year and also was a Class 5A first-team all-state selection.
Kichler, who has already signed to play college baseball at St. Mary's College in Moraga, Calif., was a second-team all-league pick last year.
'Tanner is really throwing well now,' Strohmaier said.
Sherwood's pitching talent doesn't stop with the two aces.
Senior Nick Lopez, junior left-hander Tyler Ratcliffe and senior Conner Hendryx could all step in as starters for the Bowmen. Sophomore Joseph Balfour could shine in relief, possibly in the role of a closer while juniors Taylor Bonawitz and Nate Montgomery could also see action in relief.
'We're pitching-deep at all levels,' Strohmaier said.
Junior Travis Dyer will be back at catcher for the Bowmen.
'He's added a lot of muscle,' Strohmaier said. 'He's swinging the bat well and throwing well.'
Bonawitz could also see action behind the plate.
Sherwood also looks to be loaded in the infield. Leading the way in there is senior returnee Tyler Rome, who is back at shortstop and will be hitting in the No. 3 spot in the Bowmen batting order.
'He came a long way last year,' Strohmaier said of Rome, who was a first-team all-league selection and honorable mention all-state pick as a junior. 'He's worked really hard.'
Senior Jake Lawrence returns at first base. Senior Brandon Scott will be at second base, with Balfour also seeing some action there. Ramp, when he's not pitching, and Lopez will play at third base.
In right field, Sherwood returns senior Michael Balfour, who was a first-team all-league selection and honorable mention all-state pick last year. Michael Balfour has missed the first part of the season due as he recovers from shoulder surgery. Joseph Balfour, Michael's younger brother, has been filling in at right field.
'He's probably our most versatile player,' Strohmaier said of the younger Balfour.
Senior Geoff Walck will be in left field.
'It's his year to step up and start,' Strohmaier said.
Junior Connor Munro will be in center field. Bonawitz could also see time in the outfield.
The Bowmen also return senior Justin Davis at designated hitter. Davis, who will bat in the leadoff spot for Sherwood, was a first-team all-league and first-team all-state at the DH spot last year.
While all the pieces seem to be in place for the Bowmen, it hasn't been an overnight process. In fact, things may have started a couple of summers ago when Sherwood put a very young team on the field to take its lumps in OIBA play.
'We set this year up two years ago,' Strohmaier said. 'Now, we're hoping to reap the benefits.'
Another factor, Strohmaier says, is that many of the Sherwood baseball players were on the Bowmen football team that won a Class 5A state championship in the fall.
'They know what it's like and what it takes,' Strohmaier said. 'They want another ring and all of these kids are working hard to get it.'
As for the NWOC this season, Strohmaier sees some good competition ahead for the Bowmen.
'Putnam won't be bad, St. Helens will be decent and you can never count Wilsonville out,' he said. 'But, without question, we're the team to beat. These kids have embraced this. They know they're a talented bunch, but they're taking nothing for granted. We're confident, but not cocky.'
Sherwood, which is off to a 6-0 start to the season, was scheduled to play at Lake Oswego in a non-league game on Wednesday. Results of that game weren't available when the Times went to press.
The Bowmen will be back in action Friday when they travel to Hood River Valley for a 4:30 p.m. game. Sherwood will open defense of its NWOC title Tuesday when it hosts Liberty in a 4:30 p.m. contest.