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Braves making strides

Banks hopes to move up the Cowapa League pecking order under the guidance of first-year head coach Brian Ackerman

The Banks baseball team is young and inexperienced, starting five sophomores. But, the Braves will be fast. Really fast.

'We're really athletic and really quick,' first-year Banks coach Brian Ackerman says. 'I would say we're probably the most athletic team in the Cowapa League.'

It will be Ackerman's job to utilize the Braves' speed and athleticism and help his players learn to use those intangibles to produce wins.

'We've got to zone in on the baseball part of it,' Ackerman says. 'We have to use our speed to our advantage this year with a lot of bunts.'

Banks will live and die this season on the performance of its pitching staff.

'We're going to go as they go,' Ackerman says. 'If we throw a lot of strikes, get a lot of ground balls, we're going to win a lot of games. We walk kids, we're probably going to lose a lot of games.'

The Braves have two good starting right-handed pitchers in senior Devin Wycoff and sophomore Devin King. Junior right-handed closer Graysen Partain will be called upon often to shut the door on victories.

'They're getting better,' Ackerman says of his pitchers. 'We need to work on that second off-speed pitch for a strike. We're throwing a lot of strikes, getting a lot of ground balls. But we need to really cut down on walking kids, because we'll walk a few kids here and there and then they'll get a base hit and score some runs.

'We really need to keep teams to about two or three runs and we have a good shot.'

At the plate, Banks will be led by Partain, who also plays shortstop, hitting in the No. 3 hole, and senior catcher Shea Rue hitting cleanup. Ackerman likes the way his one through five hitters have been swinging the bat, but says that the bottom of the order needs to make themselves tougher outs.

'Our seven, eight, nine hitters, we need to work on just putting the ball in play,' Ackerman says. 'I'm preaching our approach at the plate big time: 'Always be ready to swing the bat.' All of our kids can swing, we just need to be ready to swing.'

With how young Banks is, the most important thing for the Braves will be battling the weather and stepping onto the field as often as possible in the early part of the season.

'We're getting better every game,' Ackerman says. 'Right now, we need to just play a lot of games because we're so young.'

Ackerman admits that the top of the Cowapa League is stacked with Astoria and Scappoose, which have combined to win the last three Class 4A state championships, plus a rising Seaside program. With such a young team, the Braves will have their work cut out for them, but Ackerman thinks that Banks could be near the top of the league by the end of the season.

'I expect us to battle for the Cowapa League title and come in no less than third place,' Ackerman says. 'It's going to be a battle there for one through three.'



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