It hasn’t been an easy year for McNary baseball. They’re banged up, weather has kept them off the field, and Tuesday’s 8-2 loss to South Medford makes nine straight.
“It’s not for lack of trying, it’s just a matter of we need something to go right so we have something to believe in,” McNary head coach Larry Keeker said. “So right now it’s more about trying to build confidence based on good play, but we haven’t played well.”
Keeker said the confidence is wavering and their mental toughness is being tested.
It’s not just their mental toughness. Injuries have begun to pile up, limiting Keeker’s options.
“It’s been a huge challenge to try to figure out how to take the pieces that we have left that are healthy and get ’em on the field that allows us to be competitive,” Keeker said.
The Celtics have a number of players playing out of position and are on their fourth catcher this season with sophomore Jordan Araiza stepping behind the plate and learning on the fly, as Keeker put it.
Araiza is regularly an outfielder and pitcher for the Celtics, but desperate times call for desperate measures.
According to Keeker, starting catcher Ben Allen banged up his knee in the third game of the season.
Ben’s brother Jake, who was slated to be at the top of the McNary pitching rotation, is currently out with a broken finger.
But they’ve had some bright spots on the mound this season, Tuesday’s starter Andrew Hammond being one of them.
“He’s really given us some good starts,” Keeker said. “And he’s a kid that we’ve kind of had him as a swing player, but he’s really done a good job on the mound for us.”
Hammond went four innings for McNary, allowing 3 hits and 2 earned runs.
With as good as Hammond has been for the Celtics, Keeker recognizes that he can’t overcome a wealth of defensive miscues.
On Tuesday, the Celtics committed six errors.
“It’s so much pressure on the bases created by the other team, and he’s not a guy that’s just going to run out there and just strike a bunch of guys out,” Keeker said. “He relies on guys playing defense.”
Unfortunately for Hammond and the Celtics, the defense just wasn’t there.
What was there was shortstop Trevor Ratliff, who had returned from having his hamate bone removed in his hand.
“He’s just got to the point where he can put a glove on and squeeze,” Keeker said. “So he plays defense for us, which helps us at shortstop. So he’s back that way, but he can’t swing. So we can only disguise him for so long with a plate for a drag bunt situation, put him in the nine hole.”
And the Celtics offense really couldn’t afford another hole.
McNary had just two hits on the day, an RBI double from Cooper Cripe in the first inning and a single from Jesiah Bartlett in the sixth.
It’s been the story for much of the nine-game stretch. They’ve been outscored 89-18, though they’ve only been shut out twice. They’ve allowed double-digit runs in five of the nine games, and runs in the first inning in six of them.
Meanwhile the closest of the games was the 7-4 loss to South Salem last Friday.
“We just got to continue to persevere best we can,” Keeker said. “We’re going to come to practice and work at it and then try to compete the next day. And we need to find some confidence somewhere because it’s certainly being tested for sure. It’s tough. Yeah, it’s tough on everybody.”
Contact Reporter Joshua Manes:
[email protected] or 503-390-1051
SUBSCRIBE TO GET KEIZER NEWS — We report on your community with care, depth, fairness, and accuracy. Get local news that matters to you. Subscribe today to get our daily newsletters and more.