By DEREK WILEY
Of the Keizertimes
The McNary varsity baseball team hasn’t been able to practice on its field, much less play a game.
“We literally haven’t been on our varsity field one time,” Celtics head coach Larry Keeker said. “We’ve done some on-field batting practice but we’ve had to stay off the dirt. It’s just way too soft. It’s too muddy. Even the grass area is super soft as well. We’ve been able to get on the JV field a couple times.”
McNary was scheduled to open its season on March 15 at home against Canby and then host Tualatin on March 22 but both games were cancelled.
“Obviously the weather has dictated our schedule and we certainly had to make some adjustments in terms of when we’re playing and where we’re playing and the same thing with practice,” Keeker said. “It’s been a challenging spring in terms of getting ready to go because of the weather but everyone is in the same boat.”
Thanks to the wettest February on record, the Celtics have mostly been forced to practice in the gym or on the turf field. Making matters worse, McNary put in new dirt on its infield during the offseason that has yet to dry out.
The Celtics were able to get in two away games—a 14-0 victory at Barlow on Tuesday, March 21 and a 4-1 loss at Grant on Thursday, March 23.
After missing all of last season due to elbow surgery, senior Riley Hays started on the mound against Barlow, recording three strikeouts and allowing one hit but seven walks over four and one-third innings.
“He (Hays) typically has very good command of his pitches but considering the weather and the way it was, he really did a pretty good job,” Keeker said. “He got ground balls when we needed to and they turned into four double plays. The defense backed him up.”
Jonah Geist got the final five outs to complete the shutout.
“We pitched really well considering the conditions,” Keeker said. “We were literally playing in the rain. We had a thunder and lightning delay. We didn’t get home until midnight. Considering the conditions, I thought our defense and our pitching did a pretty good job.”
Keeker wasn’t as pleased with the Celtics offensively.
McNary scored 14 runs but only had six hits, taking advantage of 10 walks and three Barlow errors.
Tyler Covalt was 2-for-3 with two runs and three RBIs. Tyler Ellertson was 2-for-3 with three runs and two RBIs.
Joshua Benson also scored three runs and Brendan Frizelle added two RBIs.
McNary’s hitting struggles were more obvious against Grant as the Celtics had just one hit by Jacob Jackson in the loss.
“We’re going to have to get better at the plate,” Keeker said.
“We’ve been able to hit quite a bit but it’s mostly inside and a lot of times that doesn’t translate to live game scenarios and part of it is, we need to get to the point where we’re seeing a lot of live pitching. We just haven’t seen it yet. I believe our guys can hit. I think it’s been more of our mental preparation going into our at bats.”
On the mound, Kyle McAllister allowed one hit and one earned run over four and one-third innings as McNary led 1-0 before an error in the bottom of the fifth led to four runs.
Playing in the Coach Bob Invitational March 27-31, the Celtics found much better weather in Arizona.
McNary lost its first game 12-5 to Millennium.
The Celtics fell behind 5-1 but scored two runs in the fourth and two more in the fifth to tie the game 5-5.
However, the host Tigers scored seven runs in the sixth.
McNary finished with four errors in the loss.
Frizelle was 3-for-3 with one run and one RBI.
Hays was 2-for-2 with an RBI.
The Celtics also lost their second game, 8-2, to Heritage, Colo.
Josiah Gilbert got his first start from the mound of the season but was chased with one out in the fourth inning after allowing three runs on seven hits and three walks.
Heritage scored four runs in the fourth and added three more in the fifth.
McNary scored both of its runs in the sixth.
The Celtics are scheduled to open league play at home on Tuesday, April 4 against North Salem.
First pitch is at 5 p.m.