by: GREG ARTMAN - Tanner Crooks earned first-team all-league honors as an outfielder and made the second team as a pitcher. He and five other Wilsonville baseball players were recognized this season, the program's first under coach Bryn Card.Nagging injuries, inconsistent batting, agonizing one-run losses — Bryn Card acknowledged all of them as reasons for the Wilsonville baseball team’s shortcomings in 2014.

But the first-year coach recognized that the Wildcats were also taking important steps to fortify the future of a program that is losing 10 seniors to graduation.

That wide-angle perspective made it a little easier for Card, who replaced Matt Kosderka at the helm, to come to terms with Wilsonville’s first sub-.500 record since 2008 and first season without playoffs since 2009.

“When there’s a new coach and a change of philosophy there are always differences, but the kids did well with adapting to the changes and buying in to everything,” he said. “Wilsonville baseball is going to be known for hard work and toughness, and they did a good job of buying in and establishing that.”

The Wildcats posted an overall record of 10-16, including an 8-9 mark in the Northwest Oregon Conference. They took fifth place in the league standings before falling 2-1 to Eugene-Churchill in the Class 5A play-in round.

Wilsonville’s up-and-down season was characterized by three distinct chapters. After winning just two of its eight preseason games, the team raced out to an 8-3 start in NWOC play. But the Wildcats sputtered down the stretch, finishing their campaign on a seven-game losing streak.

“We started off with a tough schedule, we didn’t have everybody available and didn’t do all that well,” Card said. “Once we got everybody on the field, we did really well. And then I don’t like blaming seasons on injury bugs, but the last four games when you’re missing four starters — there’s something to be said about that.”

Health woes made it even harder for Wilsonville to stomach six one-run losses, including three in league action.

Card attributed those frustrating results in part to a lack of steadiness on offense. The team ended up with a collective batting average of about .240.

“That doesn’t help you score runs,” he said. “The pitching held teams close, and our bats just couldn’t push us over the victory line. We’re going to improve the bats. The older kids are going off to some summer teams and getting consistency with the bats. You’ve got to have that consistency at the plate, so we’re definitely going to concentrate on hitting this offseason.”

Crooks leads all-league honorees

If the Wildcats had any consistency, it likely started with Tanner Crooks.

The senior earned first-team all-league recognition as an outfielder and second-team honors as a pitcher while stepping into a leadership role for Wilsonville.

“He had a hit in just about every game this year,” Card said. “He was our role model for hard work and that toughness piece.”

Crooks and five other players received all-conference acknowledgement.

Senior first baseman Parker Nielsen, junior pitcher Ryan Howe and junior infielder Matt Kelly made the second team. Opponents appeared well-aware of their skills at the plate.

“Teams pitched around all three of those guys,” Card said. “Some of them got frustrated and I told them, ‘It’s a compliment. Take it as respect.’ But you have to learn as an athlete to make an adjustment. As the season went on, they did a good job of battling back. It was a good growing and learning year for that. You can’t do the same thing over and over and expect good results.”

Senior catcher Cooper Whittaker and junior infielder Nick Barraclough earned honorable mention.

Whittaker proved to be a dedicated competitor in the position vacated by graduated senior Gunner Pollman.

“He was a rock behind the plate — we rarely had passed balls,” Card said. “He did a great job for us.”

Putnam infielder Trace Loehr was named the NWOC player of the year, Sherwood senior Riley Moore was honored as the league’s pitcher of the year and Sherwood’s Jon Strohmaier was selected as coach of the year.

Sandy defeated Sherwood in the 5A semifinals and advanced to face Hood River Valley in the title game.




Record: 10-16 (8-9 in the Northwest Oregon Conference)

Playoffs: None; lost 2-1 to Eugene-Churchill in the Class 5A play-in round

Key facts: Took fifth place in the NWOC standings; advanced to the postseason with the No. 24 ranking; finished the season on a seven-game skid; averaged 4.5 runs per game; lost six games by one run

Best win: 2-0 over Liberty on the road April 24

Toughest loss: 8-7 to Sherwood at home May 7

All-league first team: senior outfielder Tanner Crooks

All-league second team: junior pitcher Ryan Howe, senior pitcher Tanner Crooks, junior infielder Matt Kelly, senior first baseman Parker Nielsen

Honorable mention: senior catcher Cooper Whittaker, junior infielder Nick Barraclough

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