Apollos pound Parkrose, hoping to build on summer success
Sunset owned last summer.
After a sporadic spring that saw the Apollos get bounced from the first round of the Class 6A playoffs for the fourth straight year, everything clicked in July and early August.
The strings of hits hitched together in herds. High-scoring innings and great at-bats were contagious. Sunset's defense, the foundation of the Apollo program, made the spectacular look routine. Leaders like Issac Lovings and Tyler Sumner set the tone both with their outstanding play and guidance of the group. For the full Oregon Independent Baseball Association state tournament, Sunset could do no wrong, knocking off Southridge, then Jesuit in the OIBA semis and routing Westview in the state title game.
It was summer ball, not the actual season, indubitably, but those two months were a glimpse of just how good Sunset could be coming into this spring, should they be able to put everything together again.
Now, the biggest question entering this season is can the Apollos duplicate their summer prosperity and convert that into an unforgettable run in April and May?
All early indicators so far are pointing up. The Apollos (3-1) won their third straight non-league contest on April 22, pummeling Parkrose 10-0 in a five-inning trouncing at Sunset High.
"We're not done yet," Sumner said. "We have something to build off of and we made a point to everybody over the summer, but we have to keep working hard. Everyone is going to keep working hard, so we have to outwork them. The guys that didn't play winter sports were here (at the field) every day during the offseason. Right when winter sports were over we were here with no days off. As long as we keep giving it our 100 percent and keep preparing how we prepare, I think good things will happen."
Sunset opened the Metro League's eyes by knocking off Jesuit and Westview — two of the conference's flagships — on the same day to win the OIBA summer tourney. While Westview didn't have three of its all-league stars, the Wildcats threw honorable mention hurler Keegan Huey-Woods in the title game, a graduated senior who threw a two-hit shutout against Sunset in 2017 and now pitches at the collegiate level. But Sunset was on such a heater at the plate and in such a groove, Huey-Woods and Westview didn't stand a chance. It made Sunset wish the summer slate would never end, but the Apollos don't plan on ceasing and desisting.
"We want to pick up right where we left off," Sumner said. "Everyone has the same mindset and the same goal in mind. I think it really helps when everyone strives toward the same goal. Last year we didn't have that same mesh. But right now our whole team is meshing really early. I'm really excited going into Metro."
Ultimately, Sunset wants to either win Metro or capture one of the league's top-four seeds and clinch a home playoff game. But the thought of such lofty aspirations hasn't been openly discussed.
"We haven't even talked about a championship," Sumner said. "Nobody's brought it up. That's not our goal right now. Our goal is to take each team game-by-game.If you look forward too much, it's hard to win every single game in front of you. It's games like (Parkrose) where you lose focus, teams back get in the game and you could lose a few of them."
What last summer did for Sunset was give their incumbents like Lovings, Sumner, Mitch Scanlan, Danner Wintle and Tanner Winter the chance to step into the spotlight and star as well let younger players such as Chris Armstrong, Kaito Wilson and Tomo Horie taste success at the varsity level. The belief is that Sunset can translate that same attainment from August to April and beyond.
"It's given everyone a certain sense of confidence — a swag," Sumner said. "A lot of guys who are playing varsity for the first time this year played summer ball with us. Now it's like 'Wow, I think we can be something pretty good this year'. I think we're setting ourselves up for success."
Junior starting pitcher Loggan Davis was electric against Parkrose, throwing four perfect innings with nine strikeouts before giving the ball to lefty Jay Friend who threw a clean fifth to persevere the shutout. Davis struck out the side in the second inning and had at least two punchouts in every frame.
"You couldn't ask for anything more out of (Davis)," Sumner said. "He pitched great for us during the summer and this season. When you have a pitcher who throws strikes at will it helps a lot. He had a lot of confidence up there. He was pounding the zone with fastballs, knowing he was better than most of the hitters."
Senior Coleman Newsom is Sunset's No. 1 starter, but Davis has proven himself as a top-of-the-rotation righty. And with Sumner, Winter, Lovings, Wintle, Armstrong and others providing the security on defense, Sunset can keep teams low on the scoreboard.
"We all know we don't have a pitcher who throws 93 (miles per hour), so we know we have to throw strikes, not give anything away for free and trust our defense," Sumner said. "I don't think we've had an error all season. I think (the combination of pitching and defense) is working out well for us."
Sunset's offense kept the pressure on Parkrose, putting three runs on the board early to go up 3-0. Sumner smacked an RBI double in the second, then Winter, Lovings and Newsom all strung together singles, with Lovings and Newsom picking up RBIs to make it 7-0. The Apollos received an amazing individual effort from Armstrong, who on a pop fly in foul ground sprinted over from his first base position, kept his eyes on the ball that traveled back toward the Apollo dugout and with no regard for his body, caught the mile high pop up, smashed into the fence and bounced off the links for the second out in the top of the fourth. Friend fanned out the side in the fifth and Wilson brought home the game-ending run for the 10-0 tally. With spring break around the corner and a week-long trip to Crater with four high-intensity games ahead of them, Sunset stayed on task and handled the Broncos in a business-like fashion.
"It's all about our preparation," Sumner said. "Before the game, we were ready to go. We didn't look at this as a day off. We were ready to go from the first pitch. It's tough to keep your focus in this type of game, but I think we held it together pretty well. It was good for everybody and we buried (Parkrose) pretty early, so it went well."