2B Pacific League Baseball Preview: Road to league title runs through Westport

Two-time defending league champion Ocosta poised to make run at district, state titles

With the best player in the league and multiple all-league players returning to the lineup, 2B Pacific League baseball supremacy will run through Westport once again.

But the addition of PWV, which has reached the state tournament in three of the program’s four seasons, into the Pacific League means Ocosta could have some more competition this season if the Wildcats are to win a third-straight league crown.

Here’s a look at what’s in store for the 2019 2B Pacific League baseball season.

Ocosta Wildcats

2018 Record: 19-6 overall, 13-1 Pacific 2B

Chock-full of all-league talent, the two-time league title champions — the Ocosta Wildcats — look poised and ready to make a run at district and state titles in 2019.

The 2018 Pacific League MVP, Cole Hatton, returns for his junior season after batting .545 with 31 RBI, 14 stolen bases and a 1.35 OPS as a sophomore last year. Hatton was also outstanding on the mound, going 7-1 with a minuscule 0.82 ERA, allowing just six earned runs in 51 innings pitched, whiffing 84 batters in the process.

Though the Wildcats will likely feel the loss of all-leaguers Zach Allton, Hayden Hoff and Noah Martin to graduation, Ocosta returns three additional all-league players from last year’s squad in addition to Hatton.

Senior outfielder Jayden Matthews (.339, 18 R, 15 RBI) and sophomore catcher Isaac O’Hagan (.995 fielding percentage, 7 assists) and infielder Cesar Martinez (.319, 35 R,12 SB) return to the Ocosta lineup after having all-league seasons.

Ocosta possesses plenty of playoff experience, depth on the mound and a prodigious offense, and with the league’s best player supported with a cast of talented all-leaguers in their own right, this could be the year Ocosta cracks through.

“We are hoping to build off of the success of the last few seasons. Our goal is to establish a baseball culture of not only winning, but building character,” Ocosta head coach Mike Allton said. “Being accountable to each other, mentally tough and having a team first mentality is what we are trying to build here at Ocosta. I am excited for this season and look forward to the challenges that will come our way.”

South Bend Indians

2018 Record: 12-6, 10-4

One of the teams chasing the Wildcats will be the South Bend Indians, which finished third in the Pacific League in 2018.

The Indians advanced to the district play-in round where a 6-2 loss to Onalaska ended their season.

South Bend lost second-team infielder Michael Oropeza to graduation but should have a pair of First Team all-leaguers in senior pitcher Drew Rose and sophomore utility player Chase Flynn returning to the lineup this season.

Raymond Seagulls

2018 Record: 8-10, 7-7

In its first baseball season in several decades, the Seagulls were a respectable 8-10 in 2019 and earned a spot in a district play-in game, where the Seagulls lost to Rainier 12-1, ending their season.

The good news for the Seagulls is they are another year older and return the bulk of last season’s roster, including all-league infielders Jack Jordan and Christian Anderson.

If Raymond can limit opposing offenses, which was a problem as the Seagulls allowed teams to score seven runs per game in 2018, then it could find itself in the 2B District IV Tournament this year.

North Beach Hyaks

2018 Record: 5-11, 4-10

North Beach struggled last season in finishing in sixth place in the Pacific League.

If the Hyaks are to move up to the upper echelon of the league, they’ll have to improve their defense, which allowed 14 runs per game in league play last season, second only to last place Chief Leschi (17.1).

Further complicating matters is that the Hyaks lost their two all-leaguers, outfielders Steve Sotomish and Nolan Charley, to graduation.

Sotomish and Charley were a part of a veteran team that graduated eight players total last season, meaning to compete in a top-heavy Pacific League, the Hyaks’ young core of players will have to fill in and perform quickly if North Beach is to reach the playoffs.

Pe Ell- Willapa Valley

2018 Record: 5-14, 4-12 Central 2B

In the four years that PWV has been a program, it has sent a team to the state playoffs.

Last year, that didn’t happen.

PWV struggled to a 5-14 season, well out of the playoff picture.

This year, the Titans are taking a fresh outlook and refocusing in hopes of making sure 2019 is the season they right the ship.

“Last year we struggled to put it all together and at times lacked the tenacity needed to be successful at a sport as difficult as baseball,” PWV head coach Kelly Barnum said. “This year we are bringing a new energy and intensity to the field. We expected to have a solid season and accomplish our team goals.”

Barnum believes joining the Pacific League this season will help reinvigorate his team, where Pacific County rivalry games between South Bend and Raymond won’t just be relegated to non-league status.

“We are excited to be joining the Pacific League and look forward to local rivalries with South Bend and Raymond,” Barnum said. “Six years ago, no one would ever have believed that this was possible.”

If preseason practices are any indication, PWV at the very least will be a more competitive team in 2019.

“This team is not afraid to get sweaty and dirty. They’ll even bleed if that is what it takes to make a play,” Barnum said. “Practices have been a grind, extremely intense and the competition for starting spots has been extreme. It’s exciting to see guys working so hard and we know that will lead to great things on the field.”

Pitching was a problem for PWV last season, when the Titans allowed 8.8 runs per game.

“Pitching is our wild card, we have some kids that are showing a lot of potential,” Barnum said. “Their development through the season will decide how we perform going forward.”

Leading PWV this season will be senior Frank Roonsburg, junior Max Smith, and junior Luke Gerow.

Smith is a defensive anchor and will move from his previous spot at third base over to the shortstop position this season.

After what his coach dubbed a “rocky junior campaign,” Roonsburg enters his senior season refocused and will make up the other half of the middle infield at second base.

“He swings a good bat, is aggressive at the plate and brings a ton of baseball knowledge to our team,” Barnum said of his senior middle infielder.

Gerow has what Barnum called a “Griffey-esque” swing and will split time pitching and at first base this season.

“Luke has one of the most beautiful left-handed swings I’ve seen,” Barnum said. “His ability to dig bad throws is a left-side infielders dream. I’m expecting a huge year from Luke at the plate and on the mound.”

Finally, Barnum welcomes the challenge of entering the Pacific League and taking on its top team, the Ocosta Wildcats.

“Ocosta has built a solid baseball program,” he said. “They seem to compete for a league title every year. … To be the champion, you have to beat the champion. Challenge accepted.”