Timberwolves appear ready to step up in 2018
TUALATIN — The Tualatin High School baseball team may have a new head coach, but the Timberwolves still boast the same positive attitude and high hopes going into the 2018 season.
"Obviously this is my first season this year so I expect things to take some time coming together," said first-year Tualatin head coach Jake Austin. "Overall, the team is working hard and has high expectations for themselves. We hope to have a quick transition getting acclimated to each other and having a competitive season."
While the Wolves have a new coach, they have a lot of returnees from last year's squad that tied for second place in the final Three Rivers League standings at 12-5, while going 14-12 on the season.
Among the returnees for Tualatin is junior Kyle Dernedde, who is beginning his third season as the Wolves' starting shortstop. Last year, as a sophomore, Dernedde was a first-team All-Three Rivers League selection.
"I expect to be one of the best shortstops in the state," Austin said. "He is great in all aspects of the game with his defense sticking out as exceptional."
Tualatin returns another first-team all-league pick from a year ago in senior outfielder Chris Freese. A three-sport star at Tualatin, Freese got off to a late start to the baseball season after helping the Timberwolf boys basketball team squad claim the sixth-place trophy at the Class 6A state tournament.
Senior pitcher/first baseman Kaden Cook is another key returnee for the Wolves. Last year, Cook was an honorable-mention all-league pick as a pitcher.
"We are expecting Kaden to be an impact guy as a pitcher and first baseman," Austin said. "Offensively, we are looking to him to hit for some power and drive in runs. He should also fit into our starting rotation and log a lot of innings for us."
Senior Danny Shell, another all-league honorable-mention pick at pitcher, also returns.
"We expect to be our No. 1 or No. 2 pitcher," Austin said. "He has had a few injury setbacks this season but we are hoping to have him hitting his stride by league."
Senior catcher Cole Kinman, a second-team all-league selection last year, and a Lewis-Clark State commit, will be guiding the pitching staff.
"He will be a staple for our defense behind the plate," Austin said. "He has one of the best arms in the state. He is also expected to hit in the middle of the order."
Senior returnee Colby Jackson, a first-team all-league pick at designated hitter, should contribute at the plate and on the mound.
"Colby will hit at the top of the line up and is a tough out every time he steps in to hit," Austin said. "He also is looking to be in the starting rotation."
Also back is sophomore Blake Jackson, Colby's younger brother.
"Blake is a great competitor and looks to be an impact kid as a sophomore," Austin said. "He is our right fielder and back up catcher."
Also returning for the Wolves are seniors Sean Chamberlin, Ryan Webb, John Hensley, Cameron Perry and Jack Olson and junior Jett Searle. New to the varsity roster are juniors Cameron Atkinson, Cameron Springer, Gavin Moore, Tyler Anderson and Lucas Diggins.
"I think our biggest strength is our overall depth," Austin said. "We have 13-14 guys who are all capable of competing at the varsity level. I think our defense up the middle can compete with anyones in the state. Our biggest question mark will be our pitching. We have some good pitching depth but we lack dominant power arms. We will need to do a good job changing speeds and hitting their spots."
As for the Three Rivers League this year, Austin, being a new head coach in the league, isn't sure what to expect.
"I know that this league is full of great coaches and successful baseball programs, which means nothing will be handed to us," he said. "With that said, I really like our group and don't see any reason why we can't compete with anyone as long as we play sound focused baseball."
Tualatin, on Monday during its Arizona spring break trip, fell 17-11 aganst Chandler, Ariz. Kinman went 2 for 3 at the plate in that game, with a double, two runs scored and three RBIs.
Tuesday, the Wolves bounced back to get a 27-1 win over The Dalles. Kinman went 2 for 3 with a double, a triple and six RBIs. Colby Jackson went 2 for 2 with five RBIs. Dernedde had a pair of doubles and Searle and Chamberlin each scored four times. Colby Jackson and Diggins pitched Tualatin to the win.
On Wednesday, Tualatin bested Dakota Ridge, Colo., 16-3. Kinman continued his torrid hitting, going 2 for 3 with a double, a home run, two runs scored and four RBIs. Moore went 3 for 3 with a double, three runs scored and two RBIs.
Shell pitched four scoreless innings, giving up two hits, while striking out four and walking one.
The Wolves finish up their Arizona trip Thursday with a game against Higley, Ariz.
Tualatin will finish its non-league slate Monday with a 4:30 p.m. game at Hood River Valley. The Wolves will open their Three Rivers League slate Wednesday with a 5 p.m. home game with Lakeridge.