By Jeremy McDonald
STAYTON, Ore.– As they worked on fielding, relay throws, bullpen and hitting, the boys of the Santiam Senators were hard at work preparing for their appearance in the eight-team Single-A State Playoffs at Central Point.
The journey for the 16-10 Senators have been interesting to this point. They more than quadruple their win total (three in 2015) as they punched their tickets to the playoffs in The Dalles with a sweep of Hood River Valley High School Carson Oilers on July 16.
“I think it is great,” said Ryan Brown. “Point A we were some team that was put together from (team’s like) Salem Academy, Scio; and the season before, the Senators won like two games and the first two weeks we had three wins.
“So it went from two wins to two games loss (in league), so it was great.”
Now the boys have a tough challenge ahead as they open the playoffs with the 2013 State Champions and 2013 Regional Qualifier Central Point squad on their home turf of Crater High School’s Anhorn Park.
But they’re ready for it.
For kids like Ryan Brown, Noah Ferguson, Greyson Hanowell and Kyle McAlister were all on the JBO Stayton/Lyon Angels squad in 2012 that won the State Champonship.
And they now they’re on the same team again as they look to make another State Championship run.
“We know it’s going to be hard because we won it before so we know kind of the teams we are going to be playing and how tough it’s going to be,” said Ferguson. “We know we have to execute, that’s how we won it before. Executing good hitting, good defense, minimal errors, just playing our game and we know we can beat any team out there.
“We know we have that possibility of going farther than State like we did a few years ago.”
Brandon Gieselman, who has been a crucial part of Santiam’s journey to this point across the board, was a freshman when his team made it to the playoffs.
And though his season was ended before he played a single pitch due to an ankle injury, he’s motivated for this second opportunity as he hopes to end his High School career with a bang.
“I’m really excited about it because this is the first time I’m getting a chance to play in State,” said Gieselman. “I mean, my freshman year in high school, we got to go but I didn’t get a chance to play in it because I broke my ankle. So this is my first chance to really go up and play on the big stage.
“I just got to take care of my arm in these days off, get it ready to go. I’m probably going to throw Bullpen here and there, keep my arm in shape and just get ready for it. Go out as hard as I can and leave it all out on the field.”
Mentality, the boys from the local schools have to go out there like they’re the best team in the bracket.
Brown points out something that teammate Hunter BeDoya told him during the season during a slump he was having:
“We’re putting into our heads that we’re the best team out there, that we can kick other team’s butts,” said Brown. “Like what Hunter said to me when I was struggling, he said, ‘baseball is 80-percent mental and 20-percent physical’. So we have to put it through our heads that we are a good team and that we have a good chance to win.”
Gieselman added that good mentality will help them against Oregon’s best.
“It’s going to be tough, it’s going to be tough competition,” said Gieselman. “We definitely have to work for it, it’s definitely not going to be given to us. We just have to go out there and compete every day.”
.As for Ferguson, he’s looking at the micro-level with their first opponent in CP.
Though it won’t be that much of a uphill battle, he knows that Central Point will try their best to protect their home turf.
“They’re making their field, they’re trying to prove a point that it’s they’re field, their house,” said Fergunson. “So we got to go in there, take it from them, take it right out of their hands. They’re probably like, ‘they’re probably not that good, they got second in the Valley’.
“But they’re probably not thinking we’re as good as we really are, they’re underestimating us and we have to overestimate them, think they’re a triple-AAA team and go out there play good defense like we did against Madison and hit the ball really well. I think we can beat any team in that tournament.”
The team will head to the Central Point/Medford area Tuesday morning and will start their State journey Wednesday.
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Photos From Practice (Pictures by Jeremy McDonald)