By TIM HAYS
Of the Keizertimes

The McNary summer baseball program is off to the state playoffs. On Thursday, July 21 they played against top seed Churchill.

This summer the team has four players from the spring returning, and just like most years, a lot of new faces. Key returners have been two-time first league second baseman Matthew Ismay, ‘rubber band man’ Riley Hays, and infielders, Josh Benson and Jonah Geist.

“This group happens to be another good group,” Head Coach Larry Keeker said. “They are kids I can count on. They are reliable in terms of coming to the park ready to compete. Summer time is always difficult because everyone is coming and going. To their credit we have been able to compete with every guy we have.”

Because multiple players play various sports, and unforeseen injuries, Keeker has played 20 different players this summer. This opened the door for players like incoming sophomore Jacob Jackson to get his name in the lineup.

“There are a lot of good coaches, and the players are fun to be around,” Jackson said. “It has been a great summer so far, and I am still learning new things on the go. It’s a step, and I’m liking the challenge that is presenting me.”

McNary’s Division I summer baseball team began play in the state tournament Thursday, July 21 at Western Oregon University and Crescent Valley High School. (Submitted)

McNary’s Division I summer baseball team began play in the state tournament Thursday, July 21 at Western Oregon University and Crescent Valley High School. (Submitted)

The leaders on the field this summer have been two incoming seniors, Ismay and Hays. Ismay, who has found a lot of success in the program, is transitioning from second base to first base.

“I like the transition to first base,” Ismay said. “It took a while to get used to, and there are still small things to work on. I think I’m doing well, and it is really good to get experience now because that is where I will be playing next season.”

Hays is a different story, dominating the opposition in his return this summer, not allowing a run.

“It is fantastic being back on the field,” Hays said. “I missed it so much in the spring time. Being on the mound now is really special. I want it to be the way it was before, and it has been my area of expertise since I was 7 years old.”

With the summer winding down, each player is seeing their own individual growth.

“This summer was all about developing the program, developing as individuals, and trying to get better as a team,” Keeker said. “I am extremely proud of this particular group because we’ve done all those things. We are excited, and our goal is to play on the last day of the summer.”

As much as it is about development, the competitive nature will be what gets them to Sunday.

“We want to win the whole thing,” Hays said. “We started the journey at the beginning of May to go out and achieve our goals. A great way to do that is by winning it all in the summer.”