By Jeremy McDonald
MONMOUTH, Ore.– Medford has been the kryptonite of sorts for the Post 20 Dirtbags the last two years in the American Legion AAA State Playoffs.
Two years ago in Klamath Falls the Dirtbags had the five-time State Champions on the ropes in the second-round and on Championship Day in 2017 before falling in extras that season to the Mustangs.
This past summer, Kaleb Kantola pitched an 101-pitch gem against Medford in Roseburg only to see the Mustangs escape with a 1-0 win that knocked Post 20 into the losers bracket before falling to Mid-Valley the next day to end the 2018 season.
“It’s nice to be able to compete at the top level because when you go into your league for your own team, the kids aren’t as good. It prepares you when you play against good competition in the summer,” said Kantola of the game entering this season.
Kantola is coming off a season where he won 5A State Pitcher of the Year, First-team All-League and All-State and was Mid-Willamette Conference Co-Pitcher of the Year after helping Central to the 5A State Championship back on Saturday.
And as the first day of practice, the first day of try-outs start Monday afternoon, Kantola was just one of the few faces out on the field that return for 2019.
The Maiben twins, Derek and Jacob from Western Oregon University were out. Eric Kessler from Dallas returns for his third season. Jaret Stewart returns for his fourth. Blake Arritola, Braden Allison and Kaden Reidhead return to name a few of the returnee’s that are mixing in with Cameran Hagen, Bryce Campbell and Noah Juarez were out for the first day of the season.
That loss to Medford last season just makes those returning more hungry for this season. They know that Dirtbag Mentality of getting after it and playing hard.
“I think this season we’re going to come out more hungry. I think this is the year that we’re going to get it finally,” said Kessler. “We don’t care who we’re playing against, it’s just another team. I think we’ll be fine this year against good competition, only another chance to make us better.”
With guys like Jackson Holstad, Tristan Fergus and Anthony Zellner aging out of the program, Zellner was in attendance with his younger brother trying out this summer, the core they could possibly have hitting and pitching will be there this season. And with them live scrimmaging Tuesday against live arms, the competitive juices are just beginning to flow entering the season ahead.
“I’m excited. It’s always nice to have a practice like this to get everyone going, get the nerves out,” said Kessler. “But when we get to the scrimmage, it’s going to be fun. Guys are going to show out.”
Photos By Jeremy McDonald