Oly Tigers take fourth in state

Olympic’s Chris Campbell, who hit .526 at the state junior legion tourney, waves his arms. The team does it to keep loose on the field. - Photo by Aaron Managhan/file photo
Olympic’s Chris Campbell, who hit .526 at the state junior legion tourney, waves his arms. The team does it to keep loose on the field.
— image credit: Photo by Aaron Managhan/file photo

SPOKANE — When Olympic finished third behind Central Kitsap and River Ridge for the final district berth to the Junior American Legion State Baseball Tournament, few expected them to outlast their competitors.

But after five days of baseball, Olympic ended up earning a share of fourth place in the state.

“It was great,” Olympic coach Nate Andrews said. “It has a lot to do with the precedent the players before them, and the parents that support the program, set. It’s definitely a credit to the people before them.”

Specifically, Andrews referred to the 2004 team that made districts for the first time. Now, Andrews said it will be up to future groups to continue to raise the bar like this one did, taking fourth place in the team’s state debut this summer.

“We’ll just keep building on that trend established back in the day,” he said. “These kids have the talent and dedication to get there and play well.”

Hosted at Central Valley and University high schools, the state junior legion tournament featured teams from across the state, and as a result, Olympic got a taste of a lot of different styles.

Play began Aug. 2, as Olympic fell to Kennewick 8-2.

“The first game we lost 8-2 but we played right with ’em,” Andrews said. “They had 10 hits, we had 10 hits. They had an error, we had none. Really, we had one or two innings of struggling that gave them those runs.”

Facing being ousted in the double-elimination tournament, the Tigers responded with a 10-9 squeakier against Newport.

“The Newport game was one we should have been more successful in,” Andrews said. “Really, I felt pretty fortunate to get out of that game.”

But Oly got a much needed boost against Central Valley, blanking the hosts 11-0.

“Central Valley was the game where we felt like we just dominated,” Andrews said. “We had great hitting, good pitching, good defense. It was kind of nice to build a little confidence.”

While that win was nice, it was Oly’s 5-3 win against favorite Lakeside Gray on Sunday that made the Tigers a top-four team.

“I felt like Richland was the team to beat on the other side,” Andrews said of the eventual state champs. “Lakeside was definitely the team to beat on our side. They draw from three high schools in Bellevue. You have to play a good game to beat ’em. That’s the fun about baseball.”

One win away from advancing even farther, Oly was stopped short in a 12-5 loss to River Ridge.

“Our pitching was upside down,” Andrews said. “They had their No. 1 guy going; we had our No. 5 guy going. We had a couple of guys in relief pitching on short rest. We just kind of ran out of gas.”

That said, Andrews said he was very pleased with the efforts he got in the game, including that from starter AJ Wilson.

“AJ, he pitched really well,” he said. “He exceeded my expectations. We just didn’t score runs against their ace.”

While the ride had to come to an end, Andrews was extremely pleased with the finish.

“They were definitely disappointed, but I’m pretty proud of the fact they got as far as they did,” Andrews said. “Tying for fourth in state is good, but these are the type of kids that won’t be satisfied unless next year, they do better.”

Establishing that winning drive is essential to the high school season, even though it’s still half-a-year away.

“I think the kids were coming in feeling pretty confident,” Andrews said. “But you don’t face that same type of competition in the junior high leagues than you do in high school. Having this to transition with baseball is huge. It really tells you something special is there to build on in the future.”

It was summer veterans Elliot Thorsen and Bryan Deszell leading the charge, but Andrews said he could pretty much name everyone on the roster for their contributions at one point or another.

But for Thorsen and Dezell, leadership on the field, as well as off it, was the name of the game.

“Elliot was definitely our leader this summer,” Andrews said. “Offensively, he pounded the ball. He absolutely was consistent every day. Bryan was the same thing. He also had a really strong tournament. Those two guys definitely did what I expected them to do.”

Of the younger guys, Andrews was pleased with how his top battery of starter Riley Crow and catcher Zach Bird worked.

“Riley Crow’s developed into a real strong starting pitcher. He’s only gonna improve,” Andrews said. “Zach Bird, behind the plate, he’s a really hard catcher to run on. He does a lot of the things that you really can’t measure with statistics. He’ll be really valuable to us.”

Chris Campbell is another Andrews said should develop into a key player for Oly, especially after hitting .526 in the state tournament.

“Chris Campbell was a real spark plug for us all summer long,” he said. “He’s a very good athlete.”

Versatility was another area Oly got to hone in on, with no one better exemplifying that than Jordan Halstead, who saw time at shortstop, third base, first base and on the mound.

“He was just really, really adaptive,” Andrews said. “He had some big hits, some key hits during the season. And he can play so may positions.”

But regardless of how the players turn out in the future, Andrews knows there’s quite a few people besides himself that helped get the kids where they are now.

“We have parents that care about what their kids are doing. We had an amazing following at the state tourney,” Andrews said. “They had some good coaches. The Silverdale Pee Wees system, they have a lot of really supportive coaches and parents. As high school coaches, we really benefit from that community involvement.”

The Olympic Tigers include Blake Johnson, Campbell, Deszell, Thorsen, Bird, Ian Krein, Halstead, Cody Aerne, Tyler Marshall, Wilson, Jason Davidson, Joe Stevick, Crow, Chris Groat and Michael Ormiston.

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