MILTON-FREEWATER — McLoughlin High School’s varsity baseball team is looking at the 2013 season as an opportunity to build on gains the program made during the 2012 campaign, coach Mike Garcia said.
The Pioneers won three Greater Oregon League games last season after going 0-for-the-GOL in 2011. They split four games with La Grande and took one contest from Baker. Mac-Hi was swept in home-and-home doubleheaders by eventual Class 4A state champion Ontario.
Mac-Hi qualified for the postseason and was nosed out of competing in the round of 16.
The Pioneers’ season ended with a 7-5 loss to Molalla and a final overall record of 11-13.
“We want to keep building on that,” Garcia said of 2012’s betterment. “We want to get back (to the postseason).
“The kids are excited,” Garcia said. “They are capable of having a successful season. We don’t have power (offensively), but we have individuals who can help in other areas. Our speed is something we haven’t had in the past.”
Mac-Hi will have eight seniors on its roster including four starters from a season ago — Dylan Shuler (shortstop, pitcher), Jose Aguilar (outfielder), Jordan Leinbach (infielder, pitcher), and Saul Ortiz (utility, pitcher).
Derek Richwine (first base, pitcher), Tavis Hodgen (catcher), Eddie Zaragoza (third base, pitcher), and Camden Van Ocker (outfielder, pitcher) represent a senior group of athletes that also saw varsity time last year, Garcia said.
“We have quite a few seniors who are pitchers,” Garcia said. “We have a better pitching corp. It’s the deepest we’ve had. “I’m happy with our seniors,” Garcia said. “Some of them have been pitching since they were sophomores. They know what the competition is going to be like. That’s a key component against any opponent.”
Underclassmen seeking an opportunity for varsity playing time are juniors Blake Yensen (left fielder), Logan Mercado (outfielder), and Chase Copenhaver (third base, pitcher), sophomores Joey Barnhart (second base, catcher) and Jeff Jones (outfielder), and freshmen Hunter Yensen (outfielder, infielder) and Vince Roff (outfielder).
“We’re looking to see where they’ll be at,” Garcia said. “We’re allowing them to practice with the varsity. It will give them a chance to raise their level of play.”
When sizing up the GOL, Garcia senses another season of competitiveness.
“It will be pitching that carries a team through,” Garcia said. “All (league opponents) have good players coming back. Ontario is a good team. We match up well with Baker and La Grande.”
Mac-Hi’s non-conference schedule will include matchups with Madras, Estacada, and Pendleton.
“We want to play teams who have successful seasons,” Garcia said. “We can use that as a measuring point of where we’re at.”
The Pioneers open their season March 11 at Umatilla.