By Jeremy McDonald
SALEM, Ore.– Entering this season, the Saxons of South Salem only lost three players from last years 14-11 squad with a good majority of those players coming back better and stronger.
This season’s version of South Salem baseball could be something special. The experience is there with Aaron Zavala at the helm entering his senior season with Beau Smith, Colin Vogt and Gavin Fredinburg too as seniors to mix in with upperclassmen like the strong junior class behind them with Ryan Brown, Sean Alvarado and Noah Ferguson. Ferguson making the move up to Varsity after spending some time on JV last season as a second baseman and pitcher.
For second-year Head Coach Max Price, excitment is there to see how the team chemistry built from last season has carried over and developed further this season as they enter their second week of the season.
“We had really good team chemistry last year and now this year, a few new pieces added in and your always afraid as a coach if the chemistry is going to get ruined,” “The talent’s there, but it’s a matter of if everyone gets to mesh together. And so far a week in, granted we spent all this time in the offseason being together but now that the actual practice has started a week in and we’re started to see what’s meshing really well and it seems to be filled with a bunch of good teammates.”
Some of those new faces includes Sean’s younger brother Danny Alvarado enters the program as a freshman this season and is expected to be floating between catcher and third base in the years to come with another new face in Greyson Hanowell coming over from Salem Academy. The two adds depth this year at catcher behind Zavala and in the future when Zavala graduates after this season as well as that infield depth at third and with their hitting ability adds power to the line-up offensively.
In pitching, the righty in Brown and the lefty Alvarado are joined by another lefty in Nick Raska to add a another strong arm to the 14-man roster and to the pitching staff that already has Elijah Enomoto-Haole, Zavala, Fredinburg and Ferguson as well.
“The new pieces are exciting,” “Having a freshman like Danny come in is obviously exciting. Having a senior with the experience that Nick has is pretty cool to have in the program now and obviously Greyson was a excellent player with Salem Academy.
“So those guys come over, the talent level there is awesome…just chemistry-wise all three of them have fit in well, your always concerned with a freshman coming in to being on a varsity team. Will they be…are you exposing them to much too early but so far Danny has fit right in with everybody no issues whatsoever.”
In the outfield as well, mixed in is another new face in junior Brayden Neuharth, who’s speed is expected to be an addition to not just the base-paths but to the outfield to run down pop-flys and not to mention has some catching experience during his freshman and sophomore seasons if he needs to throw on the gear if a emergency arises.
But as practice went on, everything seemed to fit perfectly. Everyone joking and laughing and having a good time as they pitched, fielded and did their arm-care stuff with the goal in mind in making a run at it this season. The talent is there, but it’s how they’re going to make it happen that will be the deciding factor.
“It’s just staying focused and keeping each other accountable because when good players get on other good players, it makes us better,” said Sean Alvarado. “Like better players. We can’t be satisfied, like we always have to be that alley-cat and want it more every day.”
“We have a special group this year and what is important for us is coming together as a team,” adds Zavala as they walked off the turf to go inside of the second-half of practice Monday. “I mean we’re returning the most of our guys from last year so I wouldn’t think that’ll be much of a problem. But I think we can do something special this year.”
As we enter now a week before the season starts, March 13 for South when they commute to Eugene to take on Sheldon, three of their first seven games are against Oregon teams that made it to the postseason in 2017 with the Irish, Tigard and Roseburg.
That’s before going to Boise, Idaho for Buck’s Spring Classic over Spring Break once again. But Price mentioned how much a team-bonding that is as they head into league after coming back from the Mountain Time Zone.
“The big thing about being there is that the baseball is good, but just having 14 guys and three coaches so say 17 people spending every single minute together over the course of five-, five-and-a-half days plus two full days of driving a bus,” “Just from a teammates standpoint it’s awesome. You get to learn a lot about each other, learn to be really good friends while your there.”
Not to mention facing the competition as they open the Classic against a Capital team that defeated the Saxons 12-2 in their meeting last season before opening GVC play against West Albany as they sprinkle a few non-league games versus Summit and Aloha during the reminder of the season.
But for now, it’s back to work in preparation for the season to come.
Photos By Jeremy McDonald