The combined Wallowa County baseball team may not get to play much this season, as coronavirus precautions eat into practice sessions and games.
But as of the season’s short preview in early March, the team is thriving under its coach, Mark Ramsden. If and when high school sports can start again, they should do well.
Five freshmen from Wallowa County will combine an additional five from Elgin may allow the squad to play a few more junior varsity games and give the younger players needed experience on the diamond. Malachi Roberts from Joseph Charter School is the team’s lone senior.
The team lost several big hitters to graduation last year. Several juniors have started or earned significant playing time over the years, which will lessen the blow.
Several players, including Flynn Nave and Chase Homan played American Legion ball last summer, which can be put to good use this spring.
“Overall, with the numbers, it might be a better team than last year’s, overall,” assistant coach Jim Nave said. “The seniors last year were definitely star players, but when six players are returning, that’s a big part of the team and a lot of experience. It’s a faster team overall.”
With Ramsden’s penchant for “small ball,” which includes lots of base stealing and bunting, speed is a good thing. He’s hoping the team spends a lot of time on base this year.
“As long as they’re not being left there,” Ramsden said.
“I feel like we weren’t bunting last year as well as we had earlier. We’re going to concentrate on everyone being able to put the bunt down.”
The total school population for Wallowa County plus maybe Elgin has the squad playing 3A ball in Special District 5. Both coaches see Vale as their main competition. Burns also can play tough. The team competed well enough to make it to state each of the last three years.
Ramsden knows he has good players and he has no doubt the team will return to state this year despite a lack of seniors.
“Each of the past three years, we’ve gone to state with one or two seniors, so we have high hopes this year,” he said.