The Jaguars return the bulk of their starters from their playoff team from last season.

PMG PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER OERTELL - Century's Micky Thompson hurls a pitch during a Jaguars game last season.New year, new expectations.

Last year's Century Jaguars baseball team surprised some people, finishing 16-13 overall, placing third in the Metro League, then defeating Lincoln in the state playoffs before falling to eventual state champion Westview on a walk-off in the second round. But with the bulk of their position players returning, along with the key pieces to an already formidable pitching staff, this year's Jaguars are aiming high as the 2019 season approaches.

"Our goal every year is to make the playoffs," Century head coach Mason Wright said. "But I think this year, the guys feel we should host a playoff game and compete for a league title."

The Jaguars return seven position players and "essentially all" of their pitching, including standout senior Micky Thompson, who has signed a letter of intent to play at Washington State University next fall. But it's not just about the play on the field that has their head coach excited, but the relationship his players have with one another off of it.

"We're a pretty senior-heavy team, with a lot of experience both at the varsity level and in the postseason," said Wright. "These seniors have played together since they were kids, and so there's great chemistry. This is my fifth year as head coach, and these seniors are really consistent and coachable."

In addition to Thompson, Century's pitching rotation returns seniors Jared Gordon and Justyn Herzog and junior Ian Lawson. Thompson and Herzog were both first-team All-Metro selections last season, while Lawson was a second-teamer and senior outfielder Blake Baccay was an honorable mention.

"Pitching and defense will be pretty big strengths," Wright said. "Our pitchers have gotten stronger and tougher, and because of that, we have high expectations for the staff this year."

Despite the heartbreaking loss to Westview in last year's playoffs, Wright thinks the defeat will work in his team's favor as they approach this season.

"I think last year's postseason helped a ton," he said. "As hard as it was to lose on that walk-off single to Westview, it reminded our guys the depth that we have, and drive and grit this group has. They're extremely resilient. They just battle. And seeing Westview go on to win it, it told us that it could've been us. That's how these guys feel, and they have the talent to back it up."

In addition to the returnees, Century has a couple of seniors that spent the bulk of their time on the junior varsity last season, simply due to substantial depth. One of those seniors, Nathan Martinez, will play outfield for the Jags and provide some nice pop in the back half of the Century lineup, Wright said: "We're looking for him to have a pretty good year in a pretty potent offense already."

The coach also said freshman Niko Rosell has been impressive on the practice field, showing promise both in the field and at the plate.

"He really impressed us in the first couple weeks of practice and in offseason workouts," Wright said. "We're going to test him out in the infield and see how things go."

Century will be playing in the newly resurrected Pacific Conference this season and will be amongst the favorites to start the year. But Wright has a lot of respect for the league overall and expects it to be tough competition this year and beyond.

"I'm excited for the new league," he said. "There's a lot of history in this league. Sherwood and McMinnville historically have good programs, and the coaches in this league are very well-versed in the game and do a great job. This should be a very interesting season."

Century has a pending game with Grant scheduled for Friday, March 15, and is scheduled to officially kick off the year Monday, March 18, versus Central Catholic at 5 p.m. at the University of Portland.

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