SEASIDE - "Next season" started Tuesday night at Broadway Field for a pair of final four teams, as Seaside and Warrenton opened play in the 2002 Junior State baseball summer season.
The two programs were both coming off semifinal appearances in their respective divisions during the spring, with the Gulls losing to Sisters and the Warriors dropping a 3-1 decision to state champion Umpqua Valley Christian last week.
Only time will tell if the Gulls and Warriors can match their spring 2002 performances, but the summer season will give both teams a chance to see what they've got for 2003.
Seaside got the best of the Warriors in Tuesday's summer opener, winning 5-2 behind a complete-game, two-hitter from Vito Cerelli.
The Gulls scored two runs in the bottom of the seventh for a 4-3 win in Game 2. Only Game 1 counted in the league standings.
Having graduated eight seniors off the 2002 squad, the Warriors will be going with a new look next year. Warrenton coach Lennie Wolfe began his quest to find "replacements" for his star-studded senior lineup from the spring.
"I've never felt like people are 'replacing' individuals - they're trying to earn a position," Wolfe said. "With all the first- and second-team all-state players we've had, there have been a number of players who have come in and created their own legacies. So it's not so much the people you replace - you're just competing for a spot.
"The young kids did a pretty nice job (in Game 1)," he said. "Nick Tucker came in and got a nice pinch-hit single for us; Bret Birman laid down a really nice bunt to make things happen ... actually the older guys needed to pick it up a little more, because we didn't get as much out of the veterans as we need."
Seaside, meanwhile, loses just three players to graduation, so the Gulls will look much the same next year as they did this season. That is good news for the Gulls, who advanced all the way to the recent Class 3A semifinals.
Two of the driving forces who helped Seaside find success late in the 2002 season - Cerelli and shortstop Jon Wickersham - will both return next year, and both had big performances in the Game 1 win.
Wickersham had a double and a home run at the plate, and Cerelli pitched a solid seven innings, allowing two hits with eight strikeouts and four walks.
Wickersham "is swinging the bat well, and the biggest thing is that he's really confident at the plate," said Seaside coach Joel Dierickx. "He's getting stronger - three home runs in the last six games shows that he can do a lot with the bat.
"Vito's just getting stronger and stronger," he added. "He's got some things he needs to work on, and that's what the summer is all about. But I can hand him the ball and know that we're going to get a quality start.
"We had a real good talk about arm strength, and continuing to improve on the velocity that he has, which is good," Dierickx said. "But he's a young kid and he's still growing, so we're going to be very cautious and make sure that he has plenty of rest and time in between starts."
Scoreless through three innings of Tuesday's opener, the Gulls put up the first run in the bottom of the fourth when Matt Hendryx led off with a ground rule double, then took third on a passed ball. Hendryx scored on Mark Budnick's line single to left field.
Warrenton took the lead in the top of the fifth as Tucker had a pinch-hit single to right field to start it off.
The Gulls suffered a defensive meltdown one out later when Warrenton's Zach Gantenbein reached base on an error, allowing pinch runner Jason Warner to score. In trying to get Warner, Seaside committed a second error, allowing Gantenbein to round the bases with the go-ahead run.
But the lead was a brief one. Seaside responded with a run in the bottom of the fifth on a solo homer by Wickersham, then tacked on three runs in the sixth. Three Warrior errors allowed all three runs, including two on one play.
Cerelli struck out two of the four batters he faced in the seventh to close it out.
In the nightcap, Warrenton jumped on the Gulls with two runs in the first inning, then used a run-scoring single by Nate McBride in the fourth to take a 3-1 lead.
After tying the game in the fifth, Seaside took advantage of four straight walks to tie the game in the bottom of the seventh, and Jimmy Sibley sprinted home on a wild pitch for the game-winning run.
While Seaside has plenty of returning players, nine of the 17 players on the Gulls' summer roster are freshmen or sophomores-to-be.
Next year's sophomore class includes Pat Latham, John Knutsen, Derek Spivey and Daniel Terranova; with juniors Marshall Maier and Rick Stella. All saw action in Tuesday's doubleheader.
While the Warrenton infield will return pretty much intact, the Warriors' outfield "will be a young outfield," Wolfe said. "There will be a lot of people who get looks out there this summer. Bret Birman, David Stevens and Jason Warner ... we've still got Birmans and Warners ... the more things change the more they stay the same."
Three other new faces in the Warrenton lineup will be Nick Smith, Nick Bjork and Brandon Engebretson.
"Summer ball really comes down to what you make of the opportunities," Wolfe said. "When you have as many new players as we have, that's kind of what we'll be looking at - who steps up and takes spots for themselves.
"But when you've only had one practice and one meeting, you have to consider it a work in progress."
Seaside 5, Warrenton 2
Warrenton 000 020 0 - 2 2 2
Seaside 000 113 x - 5 7 4
McBride and Beecham; Cerelli and Hendryx. W - Cerelli. L - McBride. RBI - Sea, Budnick, Wickersham. 2B - Sea, Hendryx, Wickersham. HR - Sea, Wickersham. LOB - Warrenton 6, Seaside 4. HBP - War, Gantenbein; Sea, Hinton.
Seaside 4, Warrenton 3
Warrenton 200 100 0 - 3 6 2
Seaside 001 010 2 - 4 5 3
Miller, Gantenbein (5) and Stevens; Wickersham, Emmerling (5), Hendryx (7) and Latham. W - Hendryx. L - Gantenbein. RBI - War, Gantenbein; Sea, Wickersham, Spivey. 2B - Sea, Doyle. 3B - Sea, Terranova. LOB - Warrenton 8, Seaside 7. HBP - War, McBride, McGrorty.