Other Pamplin Media Group sites

Young Cowboys look to the future


All but one player who saw significant time on this year's varsity squad returns

Things are starting to look up for the Crook County Cowboy baseball team.

The Cowboys struggled to a 5-20 record this year. However, just one player who saw significant playing time graduates. The remainder of this year’s varsity team is still intact.

“I think we improved a lot,” said Crook County Head Coach Frank Martinez following the season. “We got complements from umpires saying we did a great job and stuff like that. I’m pretty happy. For what we had we did good.”by: CENTRAL OREGONIAN FILE PHOTO - Trevor Slawter delivers a pitch during one of the Cowboys' games against the Bend Lava Bears. Slawter is expected to be one of the team's leaders next year.

With just one senior and three juniors on the roster, the Cowboys faced an uphill battle all year. The team’s pitching and fielding broke down from time to time allowing other teams to score a lot of runs. The Cowboys gave up 302 runs during the course of the season — 79 more runs than the next highest total in Class 4A.

“Obviously our pitching wasn’t strong this year,” Martinez said. The Cowboys also struggled at the plate, adding to the team’s woes once play started in the Intermountain Hybrid Conference. After averaging 8.3 runs per game in the pre-league play, the Cowboys managed just 1.07 runs per game during league play.

“Hopefully our hitters will be more aggressive next year,” Martinez said.

The Cowboys went 0-15 in IMC play, falling by an average of 11.4 runs per game with most of the contests being stopped after five innings due to the 10-run rule.

Nevertheless, things are looking up for the Cowboys.

The team moves from the IMC to the Tri-Valley League next year. The change from playing primarily Class 5A teams to playing exclusively Class 4A teams in league play should help the Cowboys. In addition both North Marion (22-8 league champion) and La Salle Prep (15-8), two of the top teams in the Tri-Valley League, are moving out of the conference next season. Corbett (7-14), a Class 3A team this year, will move into the league along with the Cowboys, leaving just two teams in the league who had winning records this year.

“Travel is going to be interesting,” Martinez said. “We aren’t going to be able to stay at home now, but I think we will be a lot more competitive. I would rather go lose to a team at the top of the league standings by two or three runs than get blown out every game.”

In addition to being more competitive in the new league, Martinez expects the Cowboys to take another step forward next year.

Most of the team is playing summer baseball, and gaining even more valuable experience. Not only will last year’s varsity team be essentially intact, Martinez is expecting several players from this year’s JV squad to challenge for playing time.

“Our JV team had a good year,” he said. “We have some kids that we are looking at for stepping up and taking spots.”

Not only that, this year Crook County has two 14-and-under traveling teams. With most of those players moving into the high school next year, that should provide even more competition for playing time.

Adding to the optimism for the future is the fact that the team will still have just three seniors and three juniors on next year’s roster. The remainder of the team will still be freshmen and sophomores.

Martinez adds that the three juniors on this year’s squad — Trevor Slawter, Jared Wheeler, and Kohlter Kee — should provide leadership for the younger players.

Slawter and Wheeler shared much of the pitching duties this year, and at times pitched well. Throw Chase McCall, Jared McGuire, Kyle Mazinga and Rowdie Dalton into the mix and the team should have plenty of pitchers next season.

Martinez is quick to add that, despite the difficult year, the Cowboys had they never gave up.

“The young guys are building for the future,” Martinez said. “We’ve got great kids who want to be here. They play hard. They never give up, and they are improving. We may still be young, but we will have a lot more experience.”