Season Preview 2018
Posted March 5, 2018
Baseball 2018 Season Preview
The Trappers enter 2018 with lots of returning experience and the highest expectations in recent memory. With 8 of 9 starters returning and some new faces ready to contribute, it’s easy to see why this year’s team is expecting to make some serious noise. Coming off a season in which they won their first league game in five years, the Trappers are trying to build on the momentum of 2017. Head Coach Owen Frasier, in his sixth season at the helm of Trapper baseball, definitely thinks this team is ready for a breakout season. “I know we have the talent and leadership necessary to win games and compete for a playoff spot in our league. That’s been one of the messages that our staff has tried to get across to our young men. Now they need to believe it as well.”
The leadership that Coach Frasier mentioned starts with the team’s top returning player, shortstop Nick Laurenza. “I cannot say enough how impressed I’ve been with Nick so far this season from a leadership standpoint. The amount of work he put in this offseason to get better was incredible.” Laurenza was second on the team in batting average and RBIs last year and led the team in doubles, hits, runs, and HBPs. For his efforts, Laurenza earned a spot on 2nd Team All-League. Another returning starter in the infield is junior Pepper Stokes. “Stokes is a kid we’ve always really liked,” said Frasier. “He’s a smooth fielder with good hands and the body type that college coaches are looking for.” Pushing Stokes for a starting infield position will be freshman Jackson Butterfield. “We’ve known Jack since he was just a youngster coming to our youth camp. We’ve always seen the potential in him to be a high level player both in the box, and in the field. He’s going to push the older guys for playing time.” The other returning infield starter is sophomore Justin Vernon at first base. Vernon showed flashes last season of the potential that the coaching staff sees in him as a hitter and a pitcher. The 6’4 right handed hitter finished in the top four on the team in batting average, hits and runs, and led the team in RBIs last season. Adding depth to the infield will be sophomore Brodie Coates, who started some games at third base last year. Coates’ biggest contribution may come on the mound, however, according to Frasier. “He was one of the best looking pitchers we had in our intrasquad scrimmage. He threw the most strikes and has really good movement on his two-seam fastball. I really, really like his potential on the bump.” Speaking of pitching, senior Evan Siegel should be the ace of the Trapper staff in Frasier’s eyes. “He’s got the most velocity of our pitchers and the most varsity ready breaking pitch. In terms of stuff, he’s the best.” Siegel pitched the Trappers to a league win last season and led the team in ERA. When it comes time for the big games, expect to see Siegel toeing the rubber for the Trappers.
For the first time in Coach Frasier’s tenure at Fort, there is finally some depth at the catching position. Ezekiel Block is the returning starter, but due to his being a top pitcher and utility player for the Trappers, Block won’t be forced into full time catching duty. “Last season Zeke was probably our number two pitcher, but he didn’t get as much time on the mound as we would’ve liked because we needed him behind the plate so badly.” Even with his limitations, Block earned honorable mention all-league in 2017. The depth at catcher will come from senior transfer Joe Endonino. A strong, experienced catcher, Endonino’s presence will be a huge factor for Fort. Look for Joe to also get innings on the mound as a reliever.
Who the infield starters are will play a large role in what happens in the outfield. Several of the infielders have the potential to play outfield as well. One of the outfielders that has shined so far is junior Tyler Runkle- the returning starter in centerfield. “Tyler can really run, which is great asset in that position,” explained Frasier. “It really helps his chances at the plate as well. I think he’ll be one of our top hitters.” Another guy with a ton of speed is junior Nick Hawk, who Frasier calls the team’s most improved player. “Nick is the most coachable kid I’ve ever been around. When you combine his coachability with his drive to succeed and his natural athletic ability, it has allowed him really thrive in our program.” Hawk’s team first attitude also led to him setting the school record for sacrifice bunts last season with seven. Battling for a starting outfield spot will be senior Jarick Reyes. “Jarick has impressed us so far with his speed and coachability,” commented Frasier. “He’s such a nice kid and does whatever we ask. That’s the kind of guy we like to reward in our program.” Adding depth to the outfield will be a trio of freshman in Ned Seekamp, Sam Crawford and Lamarkus Brown. All three players have been working hard and picking up the fundamentals of the position quickly. Two seniors that are new to baseball, Andrew Kniskern and Trevor Shanafelt, will also see time in the outfield as well.
One other area of strength of this year’s team is the versatility of some of the players. Two utility guys who have the potential to make contributions in a number of areas are sophomore Austin Real-James and junior Jessee Graham. “We really like Jessee’s athleticism and toughness- first and foremost,” explained Frasier. “He’s just got that football player swagger that I like to see. He believes he can make every play.” Graham could see time at first base or in any of the outfield positions. Real-James could literally see time at any of the nine positions on the field. “Being athletic with a strong arm allows you to play literally anywhere,” said Frasier. “That’s what Austin possesses. I feel confident with him at any position on the field.”
The Trappers will open their season with the Third Annual Max Beatty Invitational, a tournament they host in honor of former Trapper and cancer survivor Max Beatty. The following weekend, the Trappers will head to Seaside, Oregon for the Seagull Tournament and three games on the all turf field at Broadway Park. After that, the Trappers will jump in to a very difficult league schedule with 3A state participants, Kelso and Mountain View, as well as last year’s 3A league champion Evergreen.