The Warrenton baseball team missed the state playoffs last season for just the third time in 26 years. Head coach Lennie Wolfe and the Warriors are ready to remedy the situation and get back to where they belong.
Theyre off to a rough start, however, with a 1-5 nonleague record through two weeks.
Then again, the Warriors have played some good competition, and theyre still ranked 10th in the latest 3A coaches poll, and expected to do well in league play.
That being said, a poor start in league last year had the Warriors playing catch-up for most of the season, after Warrenton lost three of its first four league games.
And they made a good run at it winning eight of their last nine games before dropping a loser-out league playoff at Valley Catholic, with only the top two teams in the league advancing to the state playoffs.
The Warriors had swept a doubleheader from the Valiants just a week earlier, then scored a 4-2 win over Clatskanie in a league playoff.
Warrenton will look to pick up where it left off before their final loss.
It will be an interesting league, said Wolfe, embarking on his 22nd year as the Warrior coach.
Every year, I say we could finish first or fourth, and I have no reason to say anything different this year, he said. Every team has someone that can shut down everyone else.
Rainier won last years league title with a 12-3 record, but the Columbians may have taken a step back.
They graduated a lot of very good kids, Wolfe said of the Columbians. Their top two pitchers, their catcher (Brad) Tripp, (Mitch) Staeffler, (Ethan) McGlone. But they had good numbers, and theyve still got the (Oliver) Bolden kid on the hill. They will still be a good program.
Valley Catholic was No. 2 last year from our league, and they didnt graduate much, he said. The issue for them will be getting wins from their other pitchers, after (Carter) Buuck.
Elsewhere, Clatskanie graduated some very good kids, but German George is just a sophomore, and hes a very good pitcher.
Going into the season, senior Josh Biel holds down the No. 1 pitching slot, and will play shortstop when hes not on the mound.
If Josh throws the way he did last spring, hes going to be a real solid No. 1 for us on the hill, Wolfe said. He will have to keep his pitch count down and be that guy who can give us innings a couple times a week.
Last year, Cole (Jensen) was throwing all the big games, but by the end of the season, Josh was throwing an equal number of big games. He had to step up the second half of the year, and I thought he did a wonderful job of that. We need him to repeat that performance.
Behind the plate, the Warriors have junior Bradd Lundberg.
Bradd is one of our stronger kids, and well need him to be a real rock behind the plate, Wolfe said. Catching has always been a strength for us at Warrenton, and I think Bradd has all the athleticism that a guy needs to play the position, and the kind of player were used to having.
Around the horn, the Warriors will have:
Andrew Betz, Sr., first base. Andrew has done a real good job of getting himself into better shape, Wolfe said. Hes improved so much physically, weve already seen the difference.
Jimmy Bentley, Sr., second base. Second-team all-league last year, he will be a real solid leadoff guy. He has good speed, and hes starting to make better decisions at the plate. Its nice to have a guy who can get on base by virtue of a base hit or a bunt. Hes going to find lots of ways to get on base, and hes a threat once hes on the base paths.
He became a very good defensive player the second half of the spring season. Our second basemen have always had a lot of range, and he demonstrated that last year.
Third base is a bit of a question mark, Wolfe said, like it was last summer.
Senior Luke Wilson is one candidate at third, but two weeks into the season Wilson has seen most of his action in center field, while Wolfe was still holding tryouts at third (including freshman Joe Little and junior Tanner Robinson).
Wherever he ends up, Luke is going to be solid for us, Wolfe said. Hes played more than a few positions, and hell work hard at every one. His natural position is in the outfield. He will always be in the starting lineup, somewhere.
Brock Johnson, So., shortstop. Brock will be in the same role he had last summer he will play short when hes not pitching. Brock will pitch for us, and he could be at third when Luke is pitching. Or he could end up at first, when Betz is throwing. Hell have to wear a few different hats. Hes a pretty valuable commodity to have.
In the outfield, it could be mix-and-match for most of the year.
In addition to Wilson, candidates for spots in the outfield include seniors Ben Bergerson and John Bighill, and juniors Ben Gildow and Anthony Warren.
Freshmen Justice Watson and Hunter Wilson have also seen time with the varsity two weeks into the season.
Assisting Wolfe this year are former Warriors Zach LaRue and Boomer Bjaranson.
Coach: Lennie Wolfe, 22nd year
2012: 15-10 (10-5 L&C)
Playoffs: Defeated Clatskanie (4-2) and lost to Valley Catholic (1-5) in league playoffs.
All-League Returning: Jimmy Bentley, Josh Biel, Brock Johnson
All-League Loss: Cole Jensen