Brighter future ahead for Lions baseball
Stay tuned, the St. Helens baseball team will return next spring revamped, revitalized and raring to make the playoff run that never materialized this spring.
St. Helens won five straight Northwest Oregon Conference games midway through the year, claimings its season series with Scappoose and sweeping Milwaukie.
A playoff bid, seemingly out of reach earlier in the year, was a true hope if the Lions could take their next two series against La Salle Prep and Hillsboro. Chasing fourth place in the NWOC, St. Helens controlled its fate.
But while the Lions battled, the young group dropped its final six games, three of which were decided by three runs or less.
As a result, St. Helens finished the season 6-20 overall and 5-13 in league.
Still, with 11 players slated to return in 2020 — including seven starters — the Lions have a talented base to build with, off a team that had young stars emerge and new starters get ample playing time on the varsity level.
Sophomore pitcher Kaleb Edwards emerged as St. Helens' next ace, a hurler who went the distance a handful of times for the Lions this season and looked fully capable of taking the lead role from graduating senior Jacob Klein in the rotation.
Edwards helped get the Lions rolling on their five-game hot streak, pitching a complete game against Scappoose in which he allowed just two earned runs.
Catcher Jacobi Allen had a breakout sophomore campaign for the Lions as well. Hitting in the leadoff spot, the captain was one of the team leaders in on-base percentage and base knocks. With a keen batter's eye, ability to put the ball in play or even put his body in the line of fire by crowding the plate and getting plunked, Allen did whatever was necessary to help his team succeed. Defensively, he handled the pitching staff and was solid behind the dish.
Junior third baseman Garrett Harris was one of the busiest infielders at the hot corner this year for St. Helens, holding down his defensive responsibilities with the help of senior first baseman Justin Olson, who got special recognition for his work digging out throws from all of the Lions' infield.
Junior designated hitter Jackson Hald had a number of key RBIs and was one of St. Helens' hardest hitters in the box this spring.
Junior right-hander Drew Sullivan earned a role in the starting pitching rotation and enjoyed a complete-game gem against the Indians to clinch the Seven-Mile War series win.
Young players such as Cody McKay, Jared Hora, Cody Woodruff, Hunter Vanderwerf will be asked for more a year from now with the graduation of seniors such as Klein and Chris Beatty, who were huge parts of the program.
This summer will imperative for the Lions. Some of them, notably Edwards, Allen and McKay, will again play travel baseball for their respective clubs.
Those three took on larger roles and responsibilities this spring and thrived with the increased workloads after playing all of last summer.
The Lions who are involved in Oregon Independent Baseball Association summer play will get the 25 or so games under their belt that can help them come back even better and well-prepared to take St. Helens out of the NWOC cellar into one of those top-four coveted spots that automatically qualify teams for the state playoffs.