Title targeted | Prep Baseball
By KRIS HILL
Covington Reporter Assisitant Editor
March 21, 2013 · Updated 11:58 AM
Kentwood’s baseball team has a target on its back and the players are doing their best to ignore it.
Being the defending 4A state champions can come with some pressure especially after losing two of the best pitchers to graduation — Taylor Jones and Skyler Genger, both of whom are now playing Division I ball — but the Conquerors are doing their best to manage this season.
Catcher Reese McGuire, who has signed to play for the University of San Diego, said Kentwood is focused on coming together as a team.
“Kentwood has always had a target on our back,” McGuire said. “Not just in baseball, but, as a school, people maybe look at Kentwood, they hate us but at the same time they wish they went here.”
As one of five seniors on the team, McGuire is working to be the kind of leader the younger players on the team can look to as the Conks prepare for league play which started Tuesday afternoon against Auburn Riverside.
“We’re just being communicative with the young guys and letting them pick our brains a bit,” McGuire said. “It’s pitch by pitch.”
Or as head coach Mark Zender tells them, they’re “one pitch warriors.”
Kellen Wilson, senior third baseman, said the seniors have worked to help the younger members of the team feel comfortable and prepare for the season so they can handle the pressure of defending the title.
“We just love it because we know everyone’s coming out with their best and it makes us give our best,” Wilson said. “We go out and we play hard.”
Besides, they know what got them to the state title game a year ago, McGuire said, they need to try and do the same things again this year.
For McGuire, Wilson and right fielder Tanner Wessling, there is only one goal this season: win a state championship.
“That’s what we focus on,” Wilson said. “It’s all about being able to execute our plays. Through execution we’ll win games. As long as we work together as a team, we’ll make it to the state championship.”
Thus far, there have been a few surprises for McGuire. The pitching has been better than expected as have the new players to varsity.
“The young guys stepping up and not being nervous, the typical freshman or sophomore starter and dealing with the jitters,” McGuire said. “Everybody has played well all their lives, it’s just a matter of jelling as a team.”
Ultimately, it’s a matter of enjoying the game, Wessling said.
“We tell the younger guys to relax and have fun,” Wessling said. “Don’t think about the targets on our backs. Just have fun and play baseball.”
South Puget Sound North league play came on fast, McGuire said, but the first two games of the season — a 9-2 win March 12 against SPSL South opponent Rogers followed by a 5-4 win on the road against Redmond March 14 — have shown him what the Conks are capable of this spring.
“I feel like we’re getting in season shape,” McGuire said. “The talent is a little down this year around the league. There’s not as many power pitchers who can shut people down. I think we have a good chance of going back (to state).”
Wessling said the nonleague games helped Kentwood learn the little things it needs to work on as a team and what’s working. Hitting is strong again this season, for example.
“Our pitching is better than I think a lot of people thought it would be,” Wessling said. “The talent we always get (is helpful). We always seem to come together as a team. I think we’ll be pretty good.”
It’s all about working on the little things, Wessling explained, which will help them with the big goal: another 4A state championship trophy.
Wilson said mental preparation is key all season long.
“The biggest strength (of the team) … is just our overall attitude,” Wilson said. “Everyone has the same approach.”
Do the little things and ignore the target on their backs on the way to another state championship.
Reach Assistant Editor Kris Hill at email@example.com or 425-432-1209 ext. 5054.
Contact Covington Reporter Assisitant Editor Kris Hill at firstname.lastname@example.org or (425) 432-1209, ext. 5054.