Tiger baseball looking for its groove as season begins
The Newberg High baseball team is looking to build on a successful 2021 campaign that saw the Tigers finish in a three-way tie for first place with rivals McMinnville and Sherwood after notching a 9-3 Pacific Conference record.
The Tigers played a COVID-restricted 19 games in 2021, earning a 10-9 overall record, with second-year coach Andrew Reichenbach at the helm.
The Tiger varsity squad is fairly young this year, featuring six seniors, four juniors, four sophomores and two freshmen.
"We are a mixed bag with guys who are returners this year and guys who are getting their first varsity experience," Reichenbach said.
The Tigers are playing through a rough start to the season, going 1-5 in the first six games, but Reichenbach has seen room for optimism.
"During those first games, we actually pitched pretty effectively. (We) just didn't back the pitchers up defensively or offensively," he said. "We will be working on having more quality at bats and limiting defensive mistakes."
What will it take to become a quality program at the Class 6A level in Oregon?
"I would characterize it as a combination of doing the little things right, putting in the extra work to go above and beyond, and buying in to the team and playing as a team," Reichenbach said.
First, though, the Tigers must contend with what is typically a strong Pacific Conference.
"All of the teams in our conference are competitive," he said. "Sherwood and McMinnville tied for first in conference last year and returned a lot of their guys, so they will definitely be tough this year. … My hope is that we can be competitive in the conference and play to the best of our ability. If we do that, we will have a shot."
Successful high school athletic programs typically begin with development of quality youth teams, something Newberg has been loath to do over the past several decades, particularly in baseball. Reichenbach is hoping to fix that.
"Something we have been working on for the past couple of years is the bolstering of our youth programs," he said. "I definitely believe we are headed in the right direction and think we can get to where we want to be soon with those programs."
Reichenbach need not look far to witness the two team sports that have seen the most success at NHS — water polo and wrestling.
"I think the best thing we can glean from those programs and their success, is how involved they are with the youth," he said. "Once kids that play those sports come into high school, the expectation and standards are already there, which benefits the program as a whole. We are trying to do that with our youth to help keep kids loving and playing baseball through high school. That will help with the wavering turnout we have had, but my hope is that it will continue to grow in years to come."
Reichenbach, a 2013 NHS grad and Pacific Conference player of the year as a senior, is finding that part of becoming a stronger program also must come from the coaching side of the equation.
"The game of baseball is a different game than it was when I played here," said Reichenbach, who is the seventh coach at NHS since 2011. "With that, the culture has also shifted. We are trying to find the best mixture of the new and old to ensure that we have the best culture possible."
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