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This is one of a series of stories checking in on seniors whose final high school sports season was lost. Centennial High grad Kyle Fitzgerald recently was able to play some baseball

COURTESY PHOTO; KYLE FITZGERALD - Recent Centennial High graduate Kyle Fitzgerald has kept his baseball skills sharp despite pandemic restrictions.Even without games to play, Kyle Fitzgerald focused on improvement.

Instead of helping the Centennial Eagles soar to a playoff berth this spring, the pitcher and shortstop has been working on his strength and his skills.

"I really enjoy the weight training and lifting," Fitzgerald said.

Fitzgerald and his father, Chris, acquired some equipment for a home gym and went to work. They also found time to work on pitching, hitting and fielding t a local field.

"I've just been staying focused on improving. I'm still training," Fitzgerald said.

In fact, he got to play a little ball last month. Fitzgerald is on the Salamanders roster in the eight-team Cascade Collegiate League eague that caters to players from the Northwest who play junior college and small college baseball. Fitzgerald plans to play at Lower Columbia College in 2021.

The league played its first games June 19-21 at Caldwell, Idaho. Beginning Friday, The CCL will play the rest of its season — without fans — at Olympic Stadium in Hoquiam, Washington.

"It's been a while, but it was exciting just to be back out there," Fitzgerald said after last weekend's games in Idaho.

He said he was a little rusty.

"Definitely different from high school ball, but I've been playing with college athletes for a while now," he said.

Before the virus turned the final chapter of his high school career on its head, Fitzgerald was optimistic Centennial could qualify for the playoffs and make some noise. He was one of five full-time starters back from the 2019 team that finished fourth in the Mt. Hood Conference last season, missing the OSAA playoffs despite a 15-11 record.

"We were ready to build off of last year. Our goal was to make a run in the playoffs," Fitzgerald said.

Having his senior season canceled "was tough at first," Fitzgerald said. "But I had to face reality, control what I can control, and keep training."

Fitzgerald keeps up with teammates and friends through social media. He said that having older brother Devin home from the University of Oregon has been nice. Kyle Fitzgerald said his favorite experience playing baseball for Centennial came when he was a freshman and the Eagles made a trip to Arizona for a tournament. Devin was a senior on that team.

He misses the daily rituals of baseball season, but it is competing that he misses most.

"I like to win. I do not like to lose. I'm very competitive," he said.

To scratch that competitive itch, Kyle and Devin get creative. In addition to card games, Kyle said the brothers make up unique ways to compete against each other, often "on the spot."

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