By ERIC A. HOWALD
Of the Keizertimes
The McNary High School baseball program is taking a new approach to its 2014 season, one that’s going to involve more face time between players on the varsity, junior varsity and freshman rosters.
“We are breaking all the fundamentals down, like playing catch, and then breaking them into positions to provide them with tools that will allow them to be successful,” said Larry Keeker, McNary head coach.
Keeker said the decision arose from conversations with the seniors on the team a few weeks ago.
“One of the things that rose to the top was that it is about the process as much as winning games. They wanted us to focus on how we go about doing things,” Keeker said.
Senior Connor Suing said it was the 2013 summer ball season that left a lasting impression on the players finishing their high school careers this year.
“The team chemistry came out last summer playing summer ball. We’ve got a lot of good guys who like to have fun,” Suing said.
Keeker said there will be a lot riding on the chemistry between players this season as the program seeks to rebound from a less-than-stellar 2013.
“There’s a natural support system within the group this year that allows you to deal with bumps in the road. When you have a team where players and coaches are pulling in the same direction, we’re able weather the storms better,” Keeker said.
McNary finished with a 5-10 record in the Central Valley Conference last year (10-16 overall). The team struggled to build multi-game momentum, and fell 8-0 in a play-in game that would have given it a berth in the state tournament.
Keeker said pitching will be a highlight for the roster this season. Suing, Travis Klampe, Jordan Barchus, Sam Hays, Nick LaFountaine and Mickey Walker are likely to share duties on the mound for the Celtics.
“I think we’re going to be pretty well rounded as long as we stick together and play as a team,” Klampe said.
Barchus said the team’s early practices and games are going to need to set the tone for the rest of the season.
“For some of the younger guys, it’s really just a matter of getting them up to the pace of a varsity game,” Barchus said. “Our returning players are the ones who need to help them out and show them that we all have to be giving 100 percent.”
Winning a CVC title is on the minds of most teams at this point in the season, but the Celts are striving for something a little less tangible this time around. If it works, winning might just take care of itself.
“If we’re all playing together, doing the right things and having fun, we’ll know we’re where we want to be,” Klampe said.