The summer program is important for every varsity team. It provides an opportunity to develop skills, build depth and deepen team bonds.
This summer is more important than most for the Lebanon DI baseball team because the players on this squad have some very large shoes to fill.
The outgoing senior class was deep and talented, making back-to-back trips to the 5A state playoffs. During the spring, seniors filled all but two starting positions on the varsity squad.
Next year’s team will look very different and the first steps in building that team are taking place this summer.
“It’s hard to get out of the shadow that group of guys put us in. That was a good group,” said Joel Carlson, a rising senior who was one of two non-senior starters on the varsity, along with Curtis Jones.
The fact that Carlson has only one year of high school remaining provides a sense of urgency to this summer.
“It’s cool to get your shot,” he said.
Teagan Maloney is in his fourth year with the DI program and played a mix of varsity and junior varsity during his junior year. He is getting playing time this summer at first base and as part of the pitching rotation.
The summer games are an important opportunity for him to gain experience at first base at this level of competition.
“I want to get more comfortable at first, knowing what my responsibilities are in every situation,” Maloney said.
Carlson played second base during the spring and started out the summer at that position. Over the past several games, he has started at shortstop. He is enjoying this opportunity and likes the challenge of the longer throws to first.
Next spring, however, he will be happy to fill whatever spot head coach Jeff Stolsig thinks is most helpful.
“As long as I’m playing, that’s what matters,” Carlson said.
The Warriors are currently 8-4 in league (10-6 overall), but have lost two in a row. Lebanon hosted Silverton on Thursday, July 5 and fell 6-5.
The Warriors struggled at the plate in the early innings and trailed 4-0 entering the bottom of the fifth. Lebanon loaded the bases with no outs and scored a run on a hit-batter. Carlson then evened the game with a bases-emptying double to left center.
Carlson said it felt good to deliver, especially after he had struck out in two earlier at-bats.
“Putting it in fair territory was nice and seeing it go over the guy’s head was just awesome,” Carlson said.
Stolsig was pleased Carlson’s approach in that at-bat.
“Joel competed for us,” Stolsig said.
But overall, he was not satisfied with the team’s offensive approach, especially in the early innings. He said that being tentative at the plate gave the Silverton pitcher the opportunity to gain confidence.
“You didn’t see a lot of competitive at-bats today, you didn’t see a lot of guys expecting to hit the ball hard, you didn’t see a lot of guys expecting to do well. You saw a lot of guys who were beat before they got to the plate,” Stolsig said. “You saw some pitchers being cautious. It wasn’t us.”
The Warriors followed up that game with a loss at West Salem.
“We didn’t play as well as we could,” Maloney said of that game. “Errors bit us in the butt.”
Despite this skid, the Warriors are in position to make the postseason. They conclude their regular season with three home games this week, including a game at 6 p.m. Wednesday, July 11, against McNary.
The results of those games will determine their opponent in a best-of-three playoff series this weekend.
The winner of that series will advance to the state tournament, which will be held July 20-22.