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The Newberg American Legion team mounts an impressive turnaround this season

GRAPHIC PHOTO: GARY ALLEN - Right-hander Connor Nipp was a key contributor to an Abby's pitching staff that made significant strides this summer.

The Newberg Abby's baseball team finished off its summer schedule with a split, beating Aloha 6-2 on July 15 before dropping a game to Robinson Construction (Westview) 5-1 on July 17.

Abby's finished a largely successful summer with a record of 17-12.

Their campaign featured wins over some of the top American Legion teams in the state, and the improvement was marked from a 2019 spring season in which the young Newberg High School varsity squad finished 4-22.

Coach Trey Watt said the recent win over Aloha featured well-executed "small ball" and quality at-bats, along with a stellar pitching performance from incoming junior Jacob Fitch.

The following game might have had a sour result, but he said he didn't want it to put a damper on the team's accomplishments this summer.

"The Westview game was tough because we were in extra innings," Watt said. "We left like 10 runners in scoring position, so we had plenty of opportunities to win that game. We pitched well and played good defense, but just couldn't execute well late."GRAPHIC PHOTO: GARY ALLEN - Kyler Erion checks his swing in a 5-1 loss to Robinson Construction (Westview) on July 17.

Watt noted that his favorite parts of the summer featured wins over elite opponents. Beating West Linn 9-1 on July 2 was a huge confidence booster for the guys, he said, and so was a 5-0 win over PABCO Roofers – a team comprised of players from Lake Oswego, Lakeridge and West Linn high schools – on July 7.

Hanging with and beating some of the best teams in the state shows the development of this group, Watt said, and he was even encouraged by some of the losses – among them a 7-4 defeat at the hands of high school state champion Jesuit on June 20.

"It's reassurance for our guys that the process is correct and that they can buy in to the culture we've established," Watt said. "I enjoyed the summer that they had and we need to celebrate it, but also realize we have a lot to do for next spring. (The) summer record doesn't mean anything when spring rolls around."

The group is tight-knit and has "a lot of fun together," Watt added. The difference in many of their games was the comfortability with one another and palpable team chemistry, which has only grown in the past year for a young program looking to improve.

Watt led the effort to re-establish the American Legion team and partner with Abby's Pizza in the process. The opportunity to play legion ball again appears to have paid dividends for many of Newberg's baseball players.

It was also a bonding experience and when it came to an end last week, the team voted for its most inspirational player. Incoming sophomore first baseman Kenny Espinosa – who doesn't play a lot but is a positive presence in the dugout – received the honor from his teammates.

"Kenny is a hard worker no matter what," Watt said. "His attitude is phenomenal and he always has a smile on his face and that's why his teammates voted him most inspirational. He just inspires others around him and it's contagious."

Watt said that – after a fun few months in which the team improved leaps and bounds – the next few months will be crucial as the team turns its attention to offseason weight training and skills work, among other pursuits. Focus on academics will be key as well, he said.

When the ping of the bat and snap of the glove return to the NHS ballfields in spring 2020, Watt expects a significantly improved varsity unit – one that took plenty of important lessons from its American Legion campaign this year.

The program hopes to continue its steady rise.

"They're ready for next spring, that's for sure," he said.

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