Auburn Trojan baseball sets sights on regular season

After a 12-10 record last year, Auburn looks to improve on that mark.

With new leadership in the Auburn Trojans’ baseball clubhouse, the green and gold have their eyes set on the regular season.

A season ago, Auburn was over .500 and one game short of finding their way into the state tournament.

This year, with a new veteran backstop, the Trojans are looking to cause problems in the NPSL.

Auburn took on Decatur and Enumclaw in its “soft opening” at this year’s jamboree March 8. These three inning games aren’t about who wins, but rather getting back to game speed and for many getting the juices of competitive baseball going against a different color shirt. “For us it is all about getting to go against somebody different on the diamond,” said Head Coach Gordy Elliott.

“We’ve got a lot of sophomores playing, getting them used to varsity baseball and the new players getting integrated and see how we do things,” Elliott said.

The Trojans’ lineup looks different this year, with players like the Goodfellow twins, Gabe McNichols and Buddy Olson graduating at the end of last year. But with the additions of Chase Mentink and Jaxen Mentink along with the emergence of Central Washington University-bound Freddie Frias, Auburn looks to not miss a beat.

“You try in high school to not have a good team, but a good program. If you have a good team and that’s all the focus the next year, you’re in trouble … You gotta have kids in your program and develop them as well,” Elliott said.

Since coming out of the pandemic, Auburn has been able to stay at or above .500 in the three seasons since shutting down.

The offensive highlight for the Trojans was a Jaxen Mentink homer to deep right field. His big fly turned out to be the only run that Auburn needed to take down Decatur, 1-0.

“He’s a good hitter. Since I’ve been here, we haven’t had that many left-handed power hitters. It’s nice to finally have one that can take advantage of this park,” Elliott said.

He went into that at-bat with a hunch that he might go large and was met with a wager for Dr. Pepper from an Auburn assistant coach. Mentink is now one Dr. P richer, but nothing is sweeter than getting your first home run of the year: “I was feeling really good. I tried something new with my swing and it is paying off,” he said.

Mentink caught all six innings for Auburn in their two games. Catching is a position that necessitates leadership on the diamond — positioning players, calling defensive plays and knowing every pitcher inside and out is a tall order. Mentink is entering his senior year and is coming off a state semifinal run with the Sumner Spartans last season.

He is leaning on that experience to help him fit in with this Trojan group, and having good teammates who are accepting also helps too.

“First couple weeks days were kind of weird coming into a new program. But these guys have been nothing but great to me… This (group) is for sure a team. They have been so welcoming,” Mentink said.

Auburn travels to Kentwood to kick off the non-league schedule against the 4A NPSL teams, that will give Elliott a good idea on what the Trojans have for this season.

“So much of baseball is learning as you play… From my standpoint, it’s are they learning from things they see in the game. And are we eliminating the mistakes and not making them in the next game,” Elliott said.

“I wanna play the best teams in the area. It is going to show us where we are by the time we get into the 3A league,” he added.

Alec Smetheram rears to go in the batter’s box in the Trojans’ first game against Enumclaw. Ben Ray / The Reporter

Alec Smetheram rears to go in the batter’s box in the Trojans’ first game against Enumclaw. Ben Ray / The Reporter

Jaxen Mentink celebrates his homerun with teammates. Ben Ray / The Reporter

Jaxen Mentink celebrates his homerun with teammates. Ben Ray / The Reporter