Expectations high, realistic at Oly

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A year removed from an 18-6 season and a berth to the Class 3A state tournament, expectations are high, but realistic, for Olympic baseball as the 2009 season approaches.

The Trojans, led by junior pitcher Riley Crow, who as a sophomore posted a 9-3 record and 1.33 ERA in 63 1/3 innings, return all but four players from the 2008 state team. Among the top returnees are sophomores Chris Campbell, Joe Stevick and Patrick Middleton; juniors Blake Johnson, Jordan Halstead, Chris Groat and Zach Bird; and senior Elliot Thorsen.

“My expectations are realistic,” coach Nate Andrews said Thursday. “But my expectations are as high as they’ve ever been.”

There’s no reason for Andrews not to expect big things; the Trojans have a deep pitching staff that includes arguably the Olympic League’s best pitcher in Crow. Thorsen, Andrews said, is the No. 2 pitcher, with Stevick No. 3.

“You need to have three guys,” Andrews said, referring to his pitching staff. “We are fortunate to have some depth.”

Crow, who had a .317 batting average and 12 RBI at the plate in 2008, is the standout of the trio, possessing control that Andrews called “abnormal to have at the high school level.”

“He’s very accurate and that’s important,” Andrews said. “He and Elliot are both solid pitchers, both those guys are pretty dominant when they’re on.”

The Trojans’ depth at pitching could be a microcosm of the Olympic League; Andrews said he expects the league’s pitching to be better than last year’s already “good” pitching.

“I believe the pitching in the Olympic League is going to surprise some people,” Andrews said. “You have some kids who are going to be a little better this year.”

Which means the Trojans, despite having pitchers such as Crow and Thorsen, must be prepared to hit. Halstead, who in 2008 hit .421 with six doubles, 16 runs and a team-best 26 RBI, figures to lead that charge. The team is without Bryan Deszell, who graduated in June after hitting .360 with four doubles, 18 runs and 23 RBI.

“We feel pretty confident that we can fill those voids,” Andrews said, referring to Deszell as well as Paul Varner, A.J. Wilson and Michael Ormiston, all of who graduated.

Andrews called Johnson and Campbell “spark plug guys” who should make an impact on both sides of the ball.

Defensively, the Trojans are looking for an everyday third baseman as well as a center fielder.

“There are a couple positions we have to work the kinks out of,” Andrews said. “We just need to find somebody who can be consistent for us at the corner.”

Once the defensive holes are shored up, and assuming the pitching staff remains healthy and the hitting takes care of itself, Andrews said there’s no reason the Trojans can’t make a return trip to state, possibly advancing beyond the first round.

“We were one of the top 16 teams in the state, that’s pretty good,” Andrews said. “Our goal is to get at least there and hopefully beyond.”

Andrews said the team “fought to the bitter end last year” after running into eventual second-place finisher Kelso to open state, but can’t become complacent this year.

“Sometimes when you’ve had success you expect it to come right back and fall into place,” Andrews said. “But nobody remembers last year. You gotta win the championship.”

The Olympic baseball program also had a strong summer, Andrews said, with soon-to-be Trojans from Ridgetop Junior High and Fairview Junior High seeing substantial playing time, preparing for the leap to high school ball.

“We’re excited for our young guys, too,” Andrews said. “It’s an edge to have them in the program, they are going to be a big part of our success.”

The Trojans’ season-opener is against Peninsula at 4 p.m. March 16. It is a home game.

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