SH’s experience, unity seen as keys to baseball success

Sean C. Morgan

Returning starters J.T. Weld and Austin Rice will lead a Huskies team with strong chemistry to what should be a relatively successful baseball season in a league that Sisters will continue to dominate.

Weld and Rice are all-league players “and kind of the heart and soul of our team,” said Coach Matt Matuszak, in his fifth year at the helm. They both had good seasons and “worked their butts off all winter long.

“It’s going to be a fresh mix. We’ve got four seniors, four juniors and two sophomores.”

Senior Dylan Elder, who earned a varsity letter and was a swing player last year, will be one of two at the top of the pitching rotation.

“Dylan had a really good summer for us,” Matuszak said.

Senior John Sims moves to varsity this year and will provide depth from the bench.

Returning juniors include Kevin Seiber, Hunter Jutte and Cole Aschraft.

Ashcraft will top the pitching rotation with Elder. They’ll throw the ball a lot the first two weeks, swapping between third and the mound. Both have a lot of experience.

Jutte is a “great athlete, great kid,” Matuszak said. “If a kid is most improved in the last 12 months, it’s Hunter.”

“A basketball junkie, he’s put in a lot of work and a lot of time (in baseball),” Matuszak said. “He’s really excited about baseball.”

He brings a lot of range to centerfield and will control the outfield, the coach said.

Seiber had a great year, finishing second-team all league at first base last season, he said. Seiber will hit cleanup and pitch a little this year.

“He’s a guy we’re looking to drive in a lot of runs for us,” Matuszak said.

Junior Brett Blachly joins the varsity behind the plate.

“Nobody out works Brett. He’s a hard-nosed, hard-working kid with a lot of talent.”

Sophomore Justin Tow will move up to varsity at second base.

“He’s a kid who just had a great summer,” Matuszak said. “He’s grown bigger, faster and stronger – been working hard and is going to be a newcomer we expect will step right up and fit in with this great group of guys we’ve got.”

Sophomore Brandon Keenon will do everything, moving to varsity as a utility player. He’ll pitch and play across the infield. He also may play outfield.

“Brandon’s made a lot of good strides too,” Matuszak said.

To round out the infield, Rice moves to shortstop from the outfield this season. “We think he’ll make the transition.”

Junior varsity players will swing up to varsity based on match-ups each game day, Matuszak said. The two teams practice together and function as a single team. He expects about five players to swing regularly.

The JV includes D.J. Bidwell, Devin Stafford, Keanu Aiona, Zephry Schwab, Desmond Ely, Allen Madero, Jordan Paul, Jake Long, Tim Miller, Mitch Weidner, Tyler Funk, Doug Livengood and Jason Miller.

Matuszak is assisted by Dan Tow and Josh Blachly.

The junior varsity is coached by Cory Hanks, who is assisted by Alex Donahue, Greg Sipe and Adam Hummer.

Josh Marvin is coaching the junior varsity two team and is assisted by Mike Carpenter and Lance Carter.

The coaching staff is enthusiastic about this season too, Matuszak said, and the group has completed a number of field improvements, including construction of a new scoreboard completed Friday evening.

The team hosted a field day Saturday, and a bunch of people from the community showed up, Matuszak said. He’s appreciative for their help.

The Huskies are brimming with speed this year, he said. “I don’t think we’ve ever had a team with more speed.

“Our team strength is our chemistry. They work really well together. And our enthusiasm. I really feel like that’s going to carry us this year.”

That chemistry and enthusiasm are key, and he’s looking to Rice and Weld to maintain it as they lead this team, Matuszak said. They’re both great leaders and mesh well with the younger players.

The Huskies finished fourth last season, which was plagued by injuries and lineup changes. Things started coming together late in the season, but it was too late to make it into post-league play.

“Sisters is the class of the league” this year, Matuszak said. The Outlaws haven’t lost a league game in three years, and they return every player.

“I think we’re right behind Sisters,” Matuszak said.

Junction City will be right there with the Huskies, along with Elmira, which finished second last year and third the year before. All of them are looking to topple Sisters.

“We’re going to do our best,” Matuszak said. Depending on how the team plays, “I think we can beat anybody on any given night.”

The junior varsity two team includes Codie Brown, Kobe Olson, Scott Layer, Adam Miller, Kevin Corrington, Trevor Beeman, J.C. Elder, Ryan Hackworth, Ryan Krause, Kyle Thornton, Daniel Virtue, Tacoma Volkers, Ty Gruwell, Bryson Denver, Nick McIntyre and Dawson Guzman.