The Braves are No. 2-ranked in the OSAA 4A rankings and they're doing it with a healthy mix of old and younger talent.

PMG FILE PHOTO: MILES VANCE - Banks players celebrate a score during a game with Gladstone earlier this season. The Braves are 16-2 and No. 2-ranked in the OSAA 4A rankings.No one really saw this coming.

The Banks baseball team is 16-2, undefeated in conference, and are currently No. 2-ranked in the OSAA 4A rankings. But despite confidence in the group and a wealth of talent, not even their coach expected this level of success.

"Really, most of our lineup are newcomers with none or very little varsity experience," Banks head coach Joe Baumgartner said. "That is another reason we are a little surprised and really excited by our current and hopeful future success."

The Braves are led by senior co-captains Charlie White and Colton Hesselman. Baumgartner said the two seniors have been phenomenal leading a healthy mix of young and older talent both on and off the field, but in addition to the talent, he spoke specifically to the team's cohesiveness as an invaluable asset.

"We are pretty young but have excellent senior leadership," the coach said. "We really are a tight group with amazing chemistry, which includes our parents. We are the high school baseball team, but we think of ourselves as a family."

PMG FILE PHOTO: MILES VANCE - Banks' Logan Kind hurls a pitch during a game with Gladstone earlier this season. Kind has been a key contributor to the Braves' success thus far this season.On the field, White and Hesselman have been phenomenal, combining to throw 82 innings with a combined ERA of 0.683. Additionally, White is batting .451 with three home runs and 18 RBI, while Hesselman is batting .308 with just five strikeouts in 52 plate appearances.

Baumgartner didn't stop there however when discussing the team and their keys to success, citing juniors Logan Kind (.414 BA, 1.12 ERA), Ashton Crossen, Wyatt Selleck and Jack Lyda; sophomores Wyatt Hesselman and Justin Walters; along with freshman Harry Gardner—who's batting .350—and others as valuable contributors in-between the lines.

"All our players contribute," Baumgartner said. "Christian Lyda, Blake Jewett. and Cole Donnelly are other players who are vital to our success."

And it's not just at the plate, but also on the mound and in the field where the coach said he believes his team's bread is truly buttered.

"Unlike previous teams, where hitting was easily the strength, our current team relies on pitching and defense," the coach said. "Through 18 games we have only given up 18 runs and had 20 errors. Those are incredible numbers and I've been around for a while."

Baumgartner said that one of the tricky aspects of this year's team—due to the number of fresh faces—was cobbling together the best and most efficient lineup. They started with pitching, where they slated White, Kind and Colten Hesselman, but then did and continue to shift guys around, taking advantage of the team's versatility.

COURTESY PHOTO: GARY HENLEY - Banks' Charlie White celebrates with head coach Joe Baumgartner as he rounds the bases during the Braves' game with Warrenton May 4.The coach said the task has been like piecing together a puzzle, but one that he, his staff and the players have and continue to be up for.

"We have also worked on developing a run scoring hitting lineup and it is still a work in progress," Baumgartner said. "All our players are receptive to changes if it improves our team and that really helps."

With just four games remaining, two with Tillamook and two with Seaside/Jewell, the coach said they're focused on the task at hand. But he also said they're excited for the postseason to come and win or lose it's already been a heck of a year.

"Our team goals start with winning our league, but once we are in the playoffs we're hoping we can host a couple games," the coach said. "The playoffs are difficult as there are just so many good teams with at least one excellent pitcher. We will just try our best and hope to win, but regardless of the outcome, this has been a successful season."

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