Westview, Jesuit lead intriguing Metro baseball title chase
In a conference dominated by a select one or two teams the past handful of years or so, it's not often that four or maybe even five schools have a certifiable shot at winning the Metro League.
Westview and Beaverton have captured or co-occupied the top-two places atop the Metro dating back to 2013, with the Wildcats winning the past two conference crowns outright. And while Westview is again a favorite to be the best team to come out of Metro thanks to its ace Willie Weiss and a wealth of headlining talent, there's a breadth of able contenders right behind them.
Jesuit is loaded with young stars and motivated after getting kicked from the Class 6A postseason in the first round last spring. If Weiss is the league's best pitcher, Crusader sophomore Mick Abel is on his heels. Sunset beat Southridge, Jesuit and Westview during the summer season to win the OIBA championship. The Apollos are seasoned and supremely confident after their breakthrough summer campaign.
Beaverton lost a bunch of seniors off last year's 6A semifinal squad but boast a youthful cache of intriguing prospects such as John Oleson and Logan McRae.
Southridge plays a highly entertaining brand of baseball that's uber-aggressive and always fun to watch. If there's such a thing as a sneaky sleeper in the Metro upper crest, it could be the Skyhawks.
Aloha can never be neglected.
Century, in its last year suiting up in Metro, could spoil the Beaverton-area schools' fun with two talented pitchers in Micky Thompson and Kyler Somers.
The wide range of qualified candidates should make for another heated Metro race, especially down the stretch as the weather improves and teams are playing every other day.
"The league — as always — is undoubtedly up for grabs but some of the front-runners include Jesuit, Sunset, Southridge and Westview," Jesuit head coach Colin Griffin said. "The Metro League is always highly competitive and it is no cliché to say we will have to see what happens down the line. If we take care of our responsibilities as a team and hold each other accountable we are confident in our potential."
"Westview should be the favorite," Sunset head coach John Barnes said. "They have good depth and a D1 pitcher/shortstop (Weiss)."
"Westview or Jesuit will be the class of the league," Southridge head coach Kyle Chamberlain said. "Both are very deep and talented rosters and it's going to take your best effort to beat them."
"Being new to the league and based off last summer, I think that Jesuit and Sunset have the ability to win the league," Westview head coach Matt Bailie said.
"Beaverton, Sunset, Jesuit and Westview all return key players from last year," Aloha head coach Tige McSwain said. "They are experienced and have a solid team in all positions."
Following are team baseball previews for the Beaverton-area schools in the 2018 season.
In a league littered with top-tier pitching aces, Matt Powers belongs in the conversation as one of the best top-of-the-rotation arms in Metro.
"Powers will anchor our pitching staff this season," McSwain said. "He has been an All-Metro selection the past two seasons and is set to have a great senior year."
Powers continues Aloha's annual tradition of producing a top-drawer starter, a power arm who like Brandon Eisert and Aaron Powers before him, gives the Warriors a chance to win each time he takes the mound. Nathan Acuavera (RHP / IF), also will be on the bump for Aloha but will anchor the infield. Acuavera is a switch hitter that is "coming into his own" according to McSwain. Seniors Gage Holman and Payne Ashbrook have started on the varsity level throughout their careers.
"We really just want to compete and play good baseball," McSwain said. "We will let the results fall where they may."
The general public will find out a lot about the youthful Beavers within the first few weeks of the season seeing that Beaverton plays Jesuit and Westview in consecutive series after opening the Metro slate with Liberty.
But Beaverton is confident it can compete with the best despite losing most of its starting lineup and practically its entire pitching rotation off last year's unit.
There are lots of interesting pieces, players like Oleson, McRae, Tommy Wahlin and Phoenix Forster who have experienced success at the youth baseball levels playing for various club teams but are unproven at the varsity level. Seniors Manny Castineira and Grant Kirby played regularly for head coach Jaime Langton last season. Castineira is one of the Beavers' best pitchers and is a sound first baseman. Metro is known for feeding young hitters to the wolves, especially with ace pitches such as Abel and Weiss on the docket. They're Division One arms with 90 miles an hour heat. Yet, after a somewhat slow start, Beaverton's getting better and adjusting to the speed of the varsity game.
"The confidence in our swings has really gone up and guys like Abel and Weiss, I feel like we can hit them no problem now," Castineira. "I feel like we can battle and come after those teams. There's no doubt in my mind we can be one of the best teams in Metro."
"We have the talent to be one of the top two teams in Metro," Oleson added. "I feel like we can compete with anybody."
Anybody who's been around the Beaverton baseball scene, whether it's at the youth or high school level, knows the Crusaders' cache of ability runs deep down the Jesuit roster.
Abel is a star on the rise, a right-handed fireballer who pitches with energy and stirred up emotion that comes from a thirst to compete. He's verbally committed to Oregon State University and will be asked to eat up innings atop the Crusader rotation. Trey Werner, Daniel Young, David Arndorfer and Ennis Ferguson are Jesuit's team's captains who will "exemplify our team attitude of accountability and dedication to executing what we call 'Our Game.'" according to Griffin.
Sophomore James Porter is a right-handed power hitter in the middle of the order who can also come out of the bullpen in long or short relief. Sophomore right-handed pitcher Ethan Wilson can start, close or work multiple relief innings if need be. There's speed, athleticism and all sorts of range in the outfield with Dorsey Wilhoite working in centerfield, Arndorfer or the speedy Josh Daul in left, and Werner or Kellar McCarthy in right. Werner, shortstop Will Spitznagel and sophomore third baseman Kevin Blair are plus defenders. Jacob Bates and Joe Angeli will handle the catching duties behind the dish.
Chamberlain brought about a fresh, innovative style of baseball to the Skyhawks last season, implementing a fast-paced, active, take-the-extra-base game that jump-started a sluggish Southridge program.
Southridge reached the first round of the 6A postseason after not making it to the playoffs the year before Chamberlain's arrival. The next step is rising up the Metro ranks and possibly securing one of the league's top-four spots which would guarantee a spot in the 6A postseason.
"We have a lot more confidence as a whole this year and I think we have a lot of guys who are ready to step up and have a really good year," Chamberlain said. "We should be right in the top half somewhere. A lot of pretty talented and experienced clubs in the Metro but I think we can compete with anybody."
A couple guys Chamberlain is particularly excited about are junior third baseman Cam Carlson and senior shortstop Connor Fajardo.
"Both of these guys got in the weight room and really worked hard on their physical strength," Chamberlain said. "They both understand the game of baseball really well and make a lot of heads-up plays."
Carlson, Zach Staley, Will Wheeler, Riley O'Connell, Trevor Barth, Darik Salinas and Rydell Nelson will man the Southridge pitching rotation. Darik Salinas, Trevor Barth, Hayden Jenkins, Joe Ball and Reece Gregory will see time in the outfield. Southridge has Spencer Stevens, Steele Peterson and Mark Walstrom at catcher with Zach Hald starting at first base and Michael Ball at second. Southridge just went 4-0 at the Crater Tournament over spring break, punctuating the showing with a 9-0 win over host Crater in the title game.
If the Apollos can recapture its end-of-summer mojo, Metro could be theirs.
Sunset put the league on notice last summer, wiping out Southridge, Jesuit and Westview in consecutive fashion at the OIBA state tourney, paving the way for what the Apollos hope is a stellar spring.
Senior Isaac Lovings is one of the top defensive catchers in the state according to Barnes. Lovings signed with Concordia University during the offseason and was one of the conference's most improved hitters at the plate during the summer. Sam Winter is one of Sunset's top hitters, who's "consistent and has some power," Barnes said. Danner Wintle is "very solid" in centerfield and boasts consistent gap hitter according to Barnes. Senior shortstop Tyler Sumner has "a solid glove and is a solid leadoff hitter", Barnes said.
Sunset's top four pitchers are Blake Hansen, Coleman Newsom, Loggan Davis and Winter. Tomo Horie starts at second base, Jared Campbell starts at third, Davis, Wintle and Mitch Scanlan anchor the outfield.
"I consider us a contender for one of the four auto berths from Metro League," Barnes said.
With Bailie now at the helm, the Wildcats haven't missed a beat.
Westview has come out of the gates strong, starting out the season with a 6-1 record with a sound 5-4 win over Tigard last week during spring break.
Westview is a senior-dominated team with plenty of players who started and stood out last season in extensive varsity action. Weiss, Ben Braukmann and Jacob Cox lead the pitching staff and middle infield. Weiss is a workhorse who regularly fans 10 or more hitters on the hill. Carter Sakamoto has continued to improve into one of the better catchers in the league. Sakamoto is a great defender behind the dish with a laser right arm. Mante Woods will handle the hot corner and hit in the middle of the Wildcat lineup. Woods has power and go deep against any pitcher in the league. Josh Moreno and junior Evan Williamson will cover two-thirds of the outfield. Moreno has starred early in the season as a speedy, hard-playing left-handed hitter who's always hustling and going all out. He's been one of Westview's more consistent hitters.
Westview has won the past two Metro titles outright and is in firm contention to three-peat.
"I believe we are set up to compete for the league title," Bailie said.