Madras brings blue-collar edge to summer baseball
For a team that had its share of ups and downs during the spring preps season, the Madras summer league baseball team was the breath of fresh air that everyone needed.
The White Buffalos fielded a roster 10 players deep for the summer, which requires a fair share of flexibility amongst them.
Some of the roster has varsity experience in Brandon Desjardins, Jeremiah Devore, Tyler Lockey and Cameron Rodriguez. But the rest range from rising high school sophomores to incoming freshman. They also have Reece White, who will enter eighth grade this fall, playing primarily at first base.
"That crew out there is really young and they keep getting better every single day," head coach Sam McCormick said. "They don't really realize it, but we've been playing a better brand of baseball."
Though their combined inexperience hasn't helped in facing a talented slew of teams, including the Bend-area schools, Lebanon, and a couple American Legion teams from Idaho, almost out of necessity, players have shown the willingness to work hard and bring a blue collar approach to the diamond.
"We've got it handed to us a couple times, but it's not because we didn't play well; we just weren't perfect," McCormick said. "We weren't good enough to win those games. I think we're learning about, if you do those small things … that you'll be rewarded with it. They're starting to figure out that work is rewarded; trying to look cool out there isn't — the game will eat you up every time."
Nearing the end of their summer season, Madras hosted the Buffalo Stampede July 7-9 and came out of it with a 2-1 record.
The Buffs opened with a 7-3 win over Summit Friday evening, before coming within one run of beating Central Catholic.
They trailed 8-1 at one point, and took the lead, before facing a two-run deficit with three outs remaining.
The Buffs ran a double squeeze in an effort to tie the game, but the second baserunner was thrown out at home. The game ended after the following batter struck out.
The loss deprived Madras of the chance to play for the championship, but they had plenty left to play for the following Sunday morning.
Against Bend, the Buffs jumped out to an early lead after scoring five runs in the bottom of the first inning. Kody Zemke batted in the first run, before Rodriguez followed with an RBI to score Desjardins. Devore laid down a sacrifice bunt to put runners on second and third base, before Jacob Hulsey and Nathan Stout added RBIs of their own.
Perhaps even more conspicious than the Buffs' batters producing at the plate, Desjardins, the starting pitcher, and the defense behind him shut down any semblance of a Bend offense.
Bend only registered one hit for the game, and it didn't come until the fifth and final inning. Desjardins' pitching wasn't flashy, but effective. He consistently threw strikes with an efficient 56 pitches in five innings, and the defense, particularly in the infield, covered a lot of ground to make routine plays.
With a 7-0 lead in the bottom of the fifth, Madras tacked on three additional runs to end the game early.
It was only one game, but another promising sign during a summer that suggests several newcomers can contribute to the varsity team in the not-so-distant future.
They will need to, McCormick said, because the Buffs will have to reload after next year's large group of seniors graduate.
"We're going to lose a lot of kids next year, so we're going to have to have a lot of kids ready to step in that starting role as freshmen and sophomores," he said.
The Buffs wind down their summer league schedule this week, first playing Redmond on Tuesday, before playing a weekend tournament co-hosted by Bend and Summit. Corvallis' Crescent Valley will be in attendance, as will a few teams from Australia.