Auburn Riverside’s baseball program made significant strides last spring, winning 14 of 20 games and challenging for the North Puget Sound League Olympic Division title.
Now, as they welcome back 13 varsity-seasoned players, the Ravens look to take the next step. Many coaches favor the Ravens to finish on top this season.
“Being that last year ushered in a new era for the Ravens, in way of a coaching staff, league and style of play, we highly exceeded all expectations,” said coach Marcus Evans, whose team surprised many, jumping from a dismal 5-15 finish in 2016.
Among the group of returning Ravens, six players were awarded all-NPSL Olympic honors last spring. That core of standouts numbers first-team talents Kenny Miller, Logan Moore and Dylan Ostler, second-team performers Nik Lancaster and Ryan Kvamme, and Alex Sugi, who received an honorable mention.
The leaders are in place for a program built on time and sweat.
“The boys have done an amazing job showing new levels of commitment over the last year and a half,” Evans said. “We have started a summer workout program that had a strong showing the last two summers, with 20-25 players showing up three times a week. Even more exciting is the offseason work the guys are putting in, in the weight room from September through February, three times per week. The results clearly showed last year, and I can’t wait to see what it does for us as a team this year.”
Ostler and Lancaster give Auburn Riverside a solid, one-two presence on the mound. Each had sub-2.00 ERAs while carrying the workload from the hill.
Miller, Moore, Kvamme and Cade Stober will make an impact in the middle of the lineup. Kyle Bates, Alex Sugi, Liam Conner, Ty Emmons and Caden Morgan have the potential to produce breakout seasons for the Ravens.
“The best part of all of this is that we are just getting started in building a strong, consistent and successful program that can last many years,” Evans said. “However, with the amount of returners and the level of potential that we have, 2018 could be an extremely special year.”
Auburn Mountainview promises to be in the Olympic Division mix behind a lineup that returns five standout players and a cast of newcomers that presents good possibilities.
“We bring back a small but solid nucleus from last year’s third-place team and add some very good players to the squad this year,” said coach Glen Walker, who enters his 13th season at the school with a career record of 166-110-1 and a state title. “We will play solid defense and pitch pretty well, and, with some offensive production, we should be in the hunt at the end of the season.”
Co-captains Nathan Weeldreyer and Hayden Byorick will help show the way.
Weeldreyer, a junior pitcher and first baseman, hit .300 with seven doubles and 16 RBIs last season. Behind good velocity and an effective curveball, he posted a 4-2 record with 63 strikeouts and a 2.49 ERA. Byorick, a senior infielder, hit .429, with a home run, a triple and nine doubles last season.
Tyler Burton, a junior catcher and two-year starter, hit .220, with two doubles and eight RBIs last season. Conner Kilcup, a sophomore shortstop who runs the defense, hit .260, with six RBIs a season ago, while senior Rylee Daugherty, a pitcher and outfielder, had a 2.91 ERA last season.
Top newcomers are: Michael Zendejas, senior outfielder; Cooper White, sophomore utility player; Willis Cresswell, freshman catcher, infielder; Jeff Ason, junior pitcher, outfielder; Xiangyu Wu, junior catcher and outfielder; Nick Dublinski, sophomore first baseman, pitcher; Grant Harris, sophomore third baseman, pitcher; and Michael Zendejas, senior outfielder.