Jesuit, Aloha, Westview to battle for supremacy in '07 Metro campaign
As much as the Metro League grew smaller this year - down from 10 to six teams with the change to six high school classifications this year - Metro League baseball ought to be bigger than ever in 2007.
Jesuit, Aloha and Westview all appear well armed to battle for supremacy in the Metro this year, and perhaps in the state as well.
'Aloha, Westview and Jesuit are the three favorites, and Sunset should be good too,' said Beaverton coach Corey Rooper.
'I think it will be Jesuit and Aloha. Aloha's tough because of all the guys they've got back, all their seniors, and Jesuit has everyone back but (Austin) Pearce,' said Sunset coach Korey Kier. 'And Westview will be tough with their new coach and (pitcher Ben) Pressler.'
'I think the Metro League is incredible,' added Southridge coach Don Fitzgerald. 'We have three or four teams that are dominant, that could dominate other leagues.'
That said Sunset, Beaverton and Southridge all feature returning all-league players in their lineups and legitimate hope of grabbing one of the league's four state playoff berths as well.
'With a six-team league and four teams making the playoffs, I think everyone will be in contention until late,' said Jesuit coach Don Lovell. 'It will be an interesting season.'
'I think it would be fair to say that all six teams (in the Metro League) are top-15 teams in the state,' Westview coach Steve Antich said. 'There will be two very good teams at the end of the year sitting out' of the playoffs.
Adding to the intrigue this year will be the move to three-game series in Metro play, with pairs of teams squaring off against each other three times in the same week on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays.
'It's going to be fun. I think the system is good with the three-game series,' Rooper said.
'I love it. I'm excited. It makes it baseball,' Fitzgerald added.
Following are previews of the varsity baseball teams at the six Metro League high schools.
ALOHA - Aloha opens the 2007 season in a new classification, a newly reorganized league and under the leadership of a new coach in Matt Bailie, but determined to keep winning just as it has the previous two years when it reached the state quarterfinals.
Bailie, a Hillsboro High graduate who was a four-year starter at Oregon State and later rose to the AAA level in minor league baseball, is convinced this year's Warrior team will do just that.
'We will compete for the league title with all the other teams,' said Bailie, who coached the previous four seasons alongside former Aloha coach Darren Bland. But 'we will need to stay focused the whole year to make the playoffs.'
The Warriors bring back eight starters from 2006, led by senior left-handed pitcher Dylan Jones (a first-team all-Metro pick in '06), senior catcher Joe Dimeo (a second-teamer last year), senior left fielder Clay Martin (second team), senior center fielder Zak Kokesh (second team), senior shortstop Travis Holz (honorable mention), senior outfielder/pitcher Nic Ford (honorable mention) and senior utility player Tyler Bolin (honorable mention).
'Jones can throw three pitches at any time during a game. He's a great competitor,' Bailie said, adding that Holz has a 'great glove' and that Kokesh has 'great speed and can run down fly balls with the best of them.'
Jones and senior Marcus Roshak will share time at first base, senior Sam Cope will go at second, senior Aaron Taylor will start at third, and the rest of the lineup includes senior catcher Geoff Moore, senior infielder Jonathan Raycraft, senior third baseman Chris Rise, senior pitcher Sean O'Connor, junior utility/pitcher Byron Clevenger, junior infielder Skylar Card, sophomore pitcher/outfielder Nate Dolman, junior outfielder Kasey Kroner and junior infielder/pitcher Ryan Roshak.
In addition to Jones' efforts on the mound, the Warriors will call on O'Connor, Clevenger and (in relief) Ford, Ryan Roshak and Dolman.
BEAVERTON - Beaverton was good last year, 11-7 in Metro League play, but not good enough to reach the state playoffs and the Beavers didn't much like being left out in the cold.
The Beavers return one of the league's better 1-2 pitching combinations in junior righthander Ryan Larson (a first-team all-Metro pick in '06) and senior righty Austin Potter (a first-team shortstop last year).
Larson 'just throws strikes. He's real game-savvy and only getting better,' said Beaverton coach Corey Rooper. 'None of our pitchers will strike out 12 a game, but we'll throw strikes and compete.'
The rest of the Beavers' rotation - who will throw to senior catcher Allen Tyler (an honorable mention selection in '06) - will include junior Mark Hernandez, sophomore Roman Lorentz, junior Jordan Severson and junior Marcus Himelhoch.
Around the infield, the Beavers will call on senior Matt Noyer at first, Larson and Himelhoch at second, Potter and Larson at shortstop, Severson, sophomore Jackie Coburn and Himelhoch at third. In the outfield, it will be junior Chris McKay ('He's a big hitter,' Rooper said), senior Tyler Parsons, Coburn, junior James Testa and junior Calvin Nagy.
Rooper knows the Beavers aren't expected to better their 2006 success, but thinks his team has a fighting chance at a state playoff spot.
'We're not a favorite. That's for sure,' he said. 'But we'll be good at defense, execution and baserunning. The good thing is that our strong points win ballgames - pitching and defense.'
And if the Beavers can just hit well enough to stay competitive and develop their young players, they may end up surprising some of the Metro favorites.
BEAVERTON - The deck is stacked at Jesuit this year.
The defending Metro League champions bring back all but two starters, among them seven all-leaguers - senior center fielder Mike Lowe (first team), junior left fielder Doug Kincaid (first team), senior pitcher Matt Spinar (second team), senior infielder Aaron Campbell (second team), senior second/third baseman Tim David (second team), senior pitcher Joe Supple (honorable mention), senior catcher Conor Casey (honorable mention) and senior first baseman Dan Wagner (honorable mention).
'We're looking to defend our championship,' said Jesuit coach Don Lovell. 'The key to our success will be our pitchers' ability to get people out. But we're real deep from a pitching standpoint and we hope a few of those guys will emerge as leaders.'
In addition to Spinar, the Crusaders will rely on junior Cameron Love ('He's got a good hard fastball and a good hard sinking curveball,' Lovell said), Lowe and Supple.
Other starters will be Casey at catcher, Wagner at first, senior Joe Petrusich and David at second, junior Marshall Yanzick will start at shortstop ('I think he's the best shortstop in the conference,' Lovell said), Love at third, Kincaid in left, Lowe in center ('He's great defensively,' Lovell said) and junior Zane Norris in right field.
Also due for varsity time are junior outfielders Michael Simich and Jay Bhatia, junior catcher/infielder Michael Payne, junior pitcher/infielder Alex Keudell and sophomore outfielder Austin Cheek.
BEAVERTON - The cupboard is hardly bare at Southridge this year, but injuries and personnel losses took away three would-be returning starters and left the Skyhawks' margin for error razor thin.
'We have a great nucleus (and) we've got a great attitude with the kids,' said Southridge coach Don Fitzgerald. 'But we'll have a lot of learning curves this year.'
This year's version of the Skyhawks will be led by senior shortstop Trent Oleszczuk (a first-team all-Metro pick in '06), senior catcher Kevin Coleman (second team) and junior third baseman Mitch Edwards (honorable mention). Add in junior Austin Hope and senior Joe Lohner at first base, and juniors Alex Hope and Brendan Goodling and senior Mitch Wise at second, and junior Nathan Roshak at third and the Skyhawks should be able to present a strong defensive unit.
'Defensively we're very sound, as much as anyone in the league' Fitzgerald said. 'Coleman is capable of a great year offensively. And (Oleszczuk) is good and Edwards is working as hard as anyone.'
In the outfield, the Skyhawks will use junior Brett Myers in left, senior Craigan Fitzgerald in center, and sophomores Mitch Mathews, Alex Brown and Kirk Werhane in right. Sophomore Garrett Scruggs will add depth in the outfield.
The pitching staff will be led by both Hopes, along with Goodling, junior Jack Brock, Wise and Mathews.
'We have no senior pitchers this year; they're all juniors and sophomores,' Fitzgerald said. 'I really hope our pitching grows up a lot this year.'
CEDAR MILL - Under the radar.
Sunset seems to live in the shadows of the Metro League's leading lights, but after back-to-back 12-6 seasons and a 2006 state playoff berth, the Apollos are just fine with their dark horse status.
'We're young but we'll be competitive,' said Sunset coach Korey Kier. 'I think we'll make the playoffs again.'
If they do, the Apollos' success will likely come on the strong right arm of senior pitcher DJ Johnson (a first-team all-Metro pick in '06).
'I think he's going to be one of the best pitchers in the league,' Kier said of Johnson. 'He's a three-pitch guy and I think he's a legitimate No. 1 starter, maybe one of the best in the league.'
The Apollos' only other returning all-league player is sophomore shortstop Kevin Taylor (an honorable mention pick in '06), while the rest of the infield will include senior Kerry Degman at catcher (he returns after missing last year with a knee injury), Johnson and senior Brian Close at first base, sophomore Kyle Chamberlain at second and sophomore David Hosmar at third. Also due for time in the infield are sophomore Nick Olney and junior Steven Caster.
In the outfield, Sunset will call on sophomores Ryan Kroon and Michael Duggan in left, junior Dan Manus in center, senior Kyle Harper and Close in right, and Hosmar in a reserve role.
The rest of the starting pitching rotation will include lefthanders Manus and sophomore Alex Lafollette, sophomore righty R.J. Hoffman, junior lefty Brandon Sugarman and senior righty Mike Monzon.
'We'll do all right,' Kier said of his pitching staff. 'Manus … will do well (and) Lafollette has a ton of movement on his ball and above average velocity.'
ROCK CREEK - First-year Westview coach Steve Antich insists that there are no sure things as his Wildcats head into 2007, but there are at least a couple players that are pretty good bets to be big successes again for the Wildcats this season.
Senior right-handed pitcher Ben Pressler was the Metro League's best in 2006, and will lead Westview's staff again in '07. The rest of that group will include senior lefty John DeGarmo (a second-teamer in '06), junior lefty Andrew Reese, senior righty Dan Fitterer (a transfer from Beaverton), junior righties Ryan Creitz and Kyle Larson, and senior righthanders Andrew Jones and Joel Warneking in relief.
'The big challenge is to have (second and third starters) and have other guys fill in from there,' said Antich, who spent the previous eight years coaching at South Medford, the last five of those as head coach. 'We have very capable guys but they've got to step up and establish themselves.'
Around the infield, the Cats will call on juniors Pat Coghlan and Roger Boulden at catcher, senior Andrew DeGarmo ('he's a heck of an athlete,' Antich said) and Creitz at first, senior Brent Cech and junior Ricky Egger at second, Pressler, Fitterer and junior Kyle Larson at short, and senior Dan Wells (honorable mention in '06) and junior Chris Evola at third.
In the outfield, Westview returns honorable mention all-leaguers in senior Austyn Cole and senior Chris Beckette, and will also start junior Spencer Arns. Senior David Bishop, Cech and Reese will also see time in the outfield.
Together, that group gives Antich good reason to be hopeful about his team's chances.
'The kids have been absolutely phenomenal so far,' said Antich, who succeeded Jeff Shull as head coach this year after Shull led the team for its first 14 seasons. 'We fully expect to be (in the playoffs).'