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Young Banks squad looks for leadership from seniors


Braves will lean on all-state shortstop Graysen Partain

Yogi Berra famously quipped that 90 percent of baseball is mental and the other half is physical. His math may have been a bit off, but the sentiment remains the same.

While prep football and basketball teams can often get by on pure athleticism, baseball is a more cerebral sport, and inexperienced teams can often fall victim to their own unrealistic expectations.

In Banks, head baseball coach Brian Ackerman is trying to teach his team the ins and outs of the game while also playing armchair psychologist.

“These guys are so young that every loss their reaction is, ‘Oh my God, we’re horrible.’ If they make an error or a mental mistake, you can see their shoulders slump and their heads go down,” Ackerman said. “That’s going to be the biggest thing for us this year. We have the talent — we can hit the ball and we have some good arms we can throw out there. It’s all going to be between the ears for us.”

Ackerman has the benefit of building this year’s team around several talented seniors, including two-time all-state shortstop Graysen Partain and outfielders Zach Olson and Eric Sommerfeld, both of whom are two-year starters.

Partain has finished as the runner-up in Cowapa League Player of the Year voting each of the last two seasons, finishing behind Astoria superstar Conor Harber, who graduated last spring.

“He’s our leader. He’s what we’re building around,” Ackerman said of Partain. “We won’t necessarily go as he goes, but the kids look up to him and follow his example. He’s just a great all-around baseball player.”

Partain will play shortstop, but he could also see some time as a pitcher or as a catcher, depending on where he is needed the most. The senior will also spark the Banks offense while batting leadoff.

“Being as good as he is at everything he does, Graysen is going to help us wherever he plays,” Ackerman said.

The Braves are in need of a catcher after the graduation of all-state backstop Shea Rue. Ackerman hopes that freshman Donny McLean can step in to fill that position, leaving Partain free to roam the infield.

“Donny is our future back there,” Ackerman said. “We’ll see how things shake out. I’m hoping he can make some progress and wind up being our starter this season.”

Olson and Sommerfeld both return and provide Banks with plenty of speed in the outfield, as does junior Devin King. The infield will likely consist of Partain at shortstop with juniors Shane Spiering at first base, Mykah Rosa at second and Joey Bonin at third. Freshman David Schorn could also see playing time as a middle infielder.

“He has looked real good,” Ackerman said of Schorn. “He reminds me a lot of Graysen when he was a freshman. If he can keep progressing, he could see quite a bit of time.”

Ackerman is excited about the athleticism of this year’s team from top to bottom.

“The thing about this team is that at almost every position we’re super athletic,” he said. “We’ve got the athletes — if we can get the baseball part across to them, I think we can be pretty competitive.”

The Braves will also enjoy a deep pitching staff, featuring Olson, King and Schorn, plus seniors Emitt Vandehey and Luke Stearns, and 6-foot-2 junior Keaton Delong, a transfer from Lost River. Partain will serve as the Braves’ closer.

“Last year we took some lumps, but a lot of these juniors got some good experience and I’m hoping that experience will get us some wins this year,” Ackerman said. “Last year if we got behind we would have buckled and been down mentally, but these guys are still up and excited. I hope we can keep that mentality all season long.”