The Madras baseball team needed some time this season to find its cohesion. An 0-5 start and an eventual 7-16 season showed that, even though the White Buffalos were rich in talent, their transition in leadership would need time to develop.
But, record aside, Madras head coach Sam McCormick regarded the season as a success in terms of individual development.
Although mostly a team-wide trend, a core group of junior in Lewis Fine, Tyler Lockey, Cameron Rodriguez and Kanim Smith took perhaps the biggest leaps, as all four were named to the Tri-Valley Conference All-League teams.
Playing primarily at second base during the 2017 season with some time on the mound, Fine was named a first-team infielder for his play.
Lockey earned a first-team nod as a utility player, which marked his second All-League award after being named to the second teamlast season as a sophomore.
In the truest sense of the role, Lockey found himself all over the field as a utility player. He played the infield, often at shortstop next to Fine, and also split time at the catcher's position with sophomore Byron Patt.
Perhaps most impactful, Lockey made his mark on the mound with a couple 10-plus strikeout performances.
He also found himself in the top four of the batting order for much of the season.
In the infield, Smith held down the Buffs' hot corner, while also seeing time on the mound. Smith, like Lockey, earned his second consecutive All-League nomination after making the first team last season.
Smith's ability as a slugger, while underappreciated by some, does not go unnoticed by his coach.
"His outs are loud outs; they are balls smoked at people," McCormick said after the Buffs' season finale May 11 against Crook County. "He's the ultimate team guy, I think, and he doesn't get the credit he deserves, but he has improved immensely over this year."
Rodriguez took a huge leap this season as a junior, holding steady in left and center field, while also showing a knack for hits as the season went on, which he attributed to a change in his swing mechanics.
Once nicknamed "the Silent Assassin" by McCormick, Rodriguez was another Madras player who quietly got on base and scored runs, often from the leadoff position.
The Buffs return all four players next season and will have a solid young core to complement them.