The Cougars will need their athletes to step up to fill void on pitcher's mound

ARCHIVE PHOTO - Canby junior Sean Wiese is returning to the pitchers mound for a third straight year. With a familiar face leading the charge, the Cougars will seek to move up from last years spot at the bottom of the Three Rivers League. The 2017 baseball season was not kind to the Cougars. Canby finished dead last in the Three Rivers League with a 2-15 record in conference play, and 3-19 record overall. The Cougars were defensively the weakest in the league then, allowing 217 runs over the course of their season. The team brought in 76 runs, second fewest in the TRL.

These stats were the product of a squad without much previous varsity experience together. Canby head coach JJ Stolsig is optimistic that the tribulations the team faced last year will bring them together for a more successful season.

"Last year in terms of wins and losses, we weren't very successful," Stolsig said. "We had a less than experienced varsity team, and we went through a lot of growing pains. Which I guess can help you develop for the following year."

Last year's team only graduated four seniors, so a large cast of familiar faces returns to battle it out on the field. Among them, junior and starting catcher Jack Bigej, sophomore Cayden Delozier, who last year hit .500 as a freshman, and junior Sean Wiese who will be starting on the mound for the third year.

Stolsig noted a pair of seniors he expected to have solid years, as well as acknowledging that surprise performances can happen.

"You've got guys like Alec Hopkins and Wyatt McGraw who started last year and logged a lot of innings and should have good years as well," Stolsig said. "There's always guys who'll surprise you, you never know exactly. You need those surprises, that's what puts you over the edge. If you think it's going to play out one way, you need to be surprised in a good way and I think we'll have a few of those guys."

The Three Rivers League looks to be a tough outing again this year. Last year, West Linn was the division champion and a state finalist, and will look to be a tough outing again. Other teams will also test the Cougars mettle this year.

"If you went coach's poll and guys returning, I'd probably say Lake Oswego (will compete for the top spot)," Stolsig said. "I think they return their whole pitching staff. Tualatin has got a good team, Tigard has a good team, and it's kind of up in the air for whoever. But there's some good teams in there."

To compete with those teams, the Cougars will have get into the groove of the game and not play tense, according to Stolsig.

"Pitchers need to throw more strikes than last year, hitters need to be more aggressive late," Stolsig said. "Last year guys said they played kind of tight and nervous, and this year with that experience guys should be a little bit looser and enjoy it a little more."

If they do that, Stolsig is confident his team will enjoy more success than its 3-19 season last year. In fact, he expects them to.

"Hopefully we finish towards the top," Stolsig said. "That's always our goal. I think if anyone says they expect to finish down below, it's not very good expectations. We expect to be in the mix, and if we play well enough we can get there."

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