MATTAWA — When Wahluke High School started a complete rebuild of its baseball program, the plan was to get back to varsity competition after two years with no team and three as a non-varsity program.
The Warriors are preparing for that first varsity action in five years against River View at home on Saturday, March 18, at 11 a.m. It will also be their first SCAC East League action in five years.
It may be a struggle to win at the varsity level, but the Warriors should be competitive. Instead of smallish, inexperienced sophomores and freshmen, this team will be led by bigger, experienced seniors and juniors. And there are 20 players with which to build a team.
“We have good leadership from our upperclassmen and the dedication to improve,” coach Ross Randleman said. “We want to be in a position to compete. We have some of the same guys out here as we have had in the past three years, and I think that is a strength. We have a group of athletes who have been playing together for the past three years.”
Among the leading players are junior pitchers Sergio Pineda and sophomore Carlos Delgado. The highlight of their season last year was a combined no-hitter.
Pineda, who has grown to 6-foot-3 and about 190 pounds, was varsity-capable last year. He had a low ERA and high strikeout numbers. He was a brute in basketball this winter, scoring 20 points a game and averaging double digits in rebounds.
“He is an outstanding athlete,” coach Ross Randleman said. “Both pitchers have shown increased velocity with their fastballs but are still working to control their off speed pitches.”
A senior Randleman is excited to have out is Brennan Zirker. He did not play last year because of a shoulder injury but was one of the top hitters as a sophomore.
“Travis Anderson is a new student who is showing promising potential,” Randleman said. “We’ve had him play every position, and he continues to excel.”
A key returner is sophomore catcher Charlie Garza. He played every game as a freshman and surprised Randleman with his skills and his desire to be on the field.
“He has shown incredible improvement,” Randleman said. “His arm strength has gotten better, and he is doing a good job protecting the plate and keeping wild pitches in front.”
Randleman will rely on the leadership of returning seniors Jesse Heredia, Aaron Martinez, David Ponce, Eric Barragan and Zirker to maintain focus as the year goes on. He said these boys truly enjoy the sport.
“We expect our pitchers to throw strikes and keep pitch counts down,” Randleman said. “We are working to help the players behind them to trust their fundamentals and transfer those fundamentals into game settings.”
Players are stepping up and making sacrifices, Ranndleman said, playing new positions in order to help the team develop. Many of these players haven’t played much in the off-season but are motivated to put extra time in after practices.
“I think this group of ball players has the right attitude to create a winning environment.” Randleman said. “Our guys are devoted to getting better every day, and that’s fun to be around.”