By Jeremy McDonald
SALEM, Ore.– Looking around practice Tuesday afternoon, there weren’t a lot of numbers associated with the North Salem Baseball Team.
Pushing high-numbers a few years ago to field teams from Junior Varsity and Varsity, only about 20 or so ballplayers total came out to try-outs last week with about 13 or so making the team…just enough to field a Varsity team in 2018.
After making the postseason four-straight seasons until last season, the 2017 Vikings baseball team went through their bumps and bruises as they replaced big names like Cole Hamilton, Cameron Jolly, Noah Boatwright and Jacob Pfenning who graduated after the 2016 season.
But, entering this season with the same core group of kids from last season’s Junior Varsity and Varsity team returning that include:
Cameron Kallhoff, Will Tsukamaki, Travis Burger, Reyes Luna, August Hagwell, Brian Bernal, Jake Mason, Zach Goodwin, Dylan Ebbs and Keegan Wafer, Ethan Thomas and Nathan Snyder as they took to the diamond at Schaefer for their second scrimmage of the season as Kallhoff took the mound first.
They took turns in sets of three or four to hit against their pitchers and against a live defense with their jamboree at Franklin High School here on Monday afternoon.
The live reps are good said Wafer as rain dampened practice last year across the State on several occasions compare to this year where teams got a few more extra opportunities to get those live reps in ahead of Monday’s scrimmage.
“It feels pretty good, it gets our mindset ready for the season’s games and getting our timing down it’s what we need in this game,” said the junior Wafer.
Several of Head Coach Chris Lee’s players were shifting all over the place getting reps at different positions to create depth with the kids they have on the field.
Situations like Luna at first, Mason at Center Field and even Wafer at catcher as assistant coach Justin Hoffman threw a pitches to save the team’s arms as the pitching staff knocks off the cobwebs for the season.
“It was pretty strange, especially going in with Hoff. But it’s pretty fun, it gets tiring after a while, but I like it. It’s pretty exciting,” said Wafer as the team need to be efficient with the low numbers this year. “Be flexible, if Lee needs us to play a spot we need to be able to play a spot. Whatever need from Lee, we got his back.”
On the mound, along with Kallhoff, Hagwell, Tsukamaki, Mason and Burger, Bernal showcased a nice little curve-ball during the scrimmage as the junior joins a staff led by a familiar face coming back from retirement:
After stepping away from the game in 2017, Godfrey returned to the dugout as before Tuesday’s practice he handed out a sheet of paper to his pitchers about their particular performance during Saturday’s scrimmage as he request them to take note and report back to him Wednesday about what he wants them to address.
“It’s nice, he has his way of doing things,” said Kallhoff of Godfrey. “He knows what he’s talking about, he does what he wants kind of but it’s good to get someone who has experience out here to teach us to pitch the right way.”
Kallhoff, like many of the kids on the North Salem team, took part in off-season baseball activities. Either through the squads D1 summer ball team, through American Legion-ball or baseball clubs like SWAT or Baseball Northwest to help them better themselves entering this season.
“It was really good for us because baseball isn’t a game where you get to say, ‘ok I’m going to come back and I’m going to be as good as I was before’,” said Kallhoff who played for the Withnell Dodgers and Baseball Northwest over the summer. “But being able to do stuff in the summer was really good to get the reps in, getting to see pitches off a live arm, getting to throw is good and I think it was beneficial for everyone who did it and I’m pretty sure everyone on this team did.”
Mason, who floated between the D1 team and traveling with SWAT where he had a strong Fall ball season on the mound with alongside Luna who caught for him, the offseason training too helped him as he prepares for his senior season of baseball.
“I just feel like Fall Ball gave me a few more live reps and help me iron down my swing and I think it will help in the long run,” said Mason.
As for coming together, adding it all up for the Viking with their low-numbers can be a double-edge sword. It sucks that the depth isn’t there, but there’s an opportunity for more hand-on opportunities by the coaches and for them to come together as a family as they prepare for the season to come.
“I think it’ll be better for us because they’ll be a lot of coaches focusing on us, but it does suck that they won’t be any development and stuff but I don’t think it’ll make too much of a difference,” starts Kallhoff.
“I feel like the low numbers will help us become more of a family,” adds Mason. “We’ll get to know each other a little bit more. We can only put nine guys out on the field so I think we’re pretty solid this year, we’re a tight-knit family from what I believe.”
Following their jamboree at Franklin Monday, North Salem opens the 2018 season at Milwaukie Tuesday (5pm First-pitch) and will have their home season opener next Thursday versus Glencoe High School at 4:30pm
Photos By Jeremy McDonald