Six games in to the Intermountain Conference season, Redmond High’s baseball team is in the thick of the postseason chase.
After being off from games last week, the Panthers (2-4 IMC, 6-9 overall) were scheduled to return to the field April 24 for the start of a four-game series against Bend (the game was after the Spokesman’s print deadline). The Panthers lost two stars from last season’s team that was fourth in the IMC, but with two victories against Mountain View, are in good position to topple the Cougars, who took the third-place play-in spot in 2017.
“I think, as a whole, we have a little more confidence,” said sophomore shortstop Cooper Browning. “At times we need a little more. We’re definitely producing a lot more offensively compared to last year.”
The Panthers have no seniors on the roster and only two juniors. The core of the team is a group of five sophomores that played regularly as freshmen last season.
“We’re still a pretty young team, but we can’t say we’re a young team,” fourth-year coach Doug Taylor said. “We have experience.”
The Panthers have no reason to shy away from their goal of reaching the postseason, Taylor said.
“I think that’s within our capabilities if we play the way we should,” he said. “We just have to make sure we work hard every day, the kids know it’s within our grasp.”
The team has been hitting well, but still has some work to do with pitching, Taylor said. Sophomore leaders include Andrew McKague, the Panthers’ leading hitter and top pitcher, Cooper Browning and Kyle Simpson, while Colby Darnell has been the top junior.
The team spent a lot of time in the batting cage during the offseason and many players kept active playing other sports, Taylor said.
“The kids really have their heads set on baseball and doing really well,” Taylor said, “They’re kids you’ve got to kick out of the cages to get them to go home, which is a good problem to have.”
McKague, who also plays catcher, said he worked hard since last season, when he was an honorable mention all-league selection. He’s lifted weights and attended defensive and catching camps.
“I think we’re good enough to compete at a high level, and, eventually, win the state championship,” he said.
While the future looks bright for the Panthers, McKague said they can stay focused on this season.
“You kind of get to looking at next year because we’ll be older and more mature,” he said. “But you also focus on this year, at the same time.”
Though the Panthers took two of three from Mountain View earlier in the season by a combined score of 28-6, Taylor hopes they learn from a 14-13 loss in the teams’ third meeting April 6. Redmond went on to get swept in a three-game series against Summit.
Despite the losses, the Panthers are continuing to improve over the season, said sophomore Colt Folston.
“There are lots of mistakes we learn from each game,” he said. “Every time we make those mistakes, it helps us with the next game and the next year.”
Some of the players have played together since they were 9 or 10, Folston said.
“We know each other pretty good,” he said.
— Reporter: 541-548-2186, firstname.lastname@example.org