The Roseburg Pepsi Bottlecaps are scheduled to begin their Class A American Legion baseball season on Saturday with a nonleague doubleheader at Central Point.
Justin O’Byrne, in his 10th year as Pepsi’s head coach, is eager to see his latest edition in a game situation.
The Bottlecaps turned in a strong season in 2018, finishing 23-5 overall. But the season concluded on a disappointing note with a pair of 10-inning losses at the state tournament.
“Obviously we’re excited to kick off the season,” said O’Byrne, a junior varsity coach at Roseburg High School during the spring who’s in his 18th year overall with the Legion program. “We have a handful of returning kids from last year, and those kids talked about how we ended the season last year.
“Those kids have a little bit of a chip on their shoulders and are ready to go, and they’ll have bigger roles for us this summer. We’re mixing in a bunch of JV kids from Roseburg along with four county kids, so we’re excited to see what we can do.”
The four returning players for Pepsi are pitcher/utility Grant Berry (Roseburg), infielder/outfielder Trevor Muir (Roseburg), outfielder Caleb Turner (Roseburg) and first baseman Blake Watson (Roseburg).
Pitcher/outfielder Dakota Percell (Oakland) and pitcher/infielder Austin Anderson (Roseburg) played for Dr. Randol’s, the other local Class A Legion team, last summer.
O’Byrne feels pitching is a potential strength for the Bottlecaps. In addition to Berry, Percell and Anderson, Colby Bucich (Glide), Logan Klopfenstein (Roseburg), Nathan Wayman (Roseburg) and Austin Takahashi (Camas Valley) could see some time on the mound.
“We have seven or eight quality arms that we can throw out there,” O’Byrne said. “That will play a huge role for us — playing 30-plus games — to have quality arms.
“We feel we’re really strong in the infield, we’re top-heavy there. Our outfield is a little thin. We have only three natural outfielders, so we’re trying to plug and play and throw some athletes out there to solidify our outfield going forward.”
Shortstop Sebastian Watson (Roseburg), Muir, Percell and Caden Smith (Roseburg) are among the candidates for positions in the infield.
“Trevor can play multiple positions, he’s the type of kid we can put anywhere,” O’Byrne said.
The remainder of the roster includes catcher Jericho Paul (Roseburg), infielder/outfielder Knox Hubbard (Roseburg), outfielder Garrett Schulze (Roseburg) and catcher/outfielder Caleb Horton (South Umpqua).
O’Byrne and his staff will use different lineups the first couple of weeks to see where the players best fit.
“We want consistency, and that starts on the mound,” O’Byrne said. “We want guys who can throw strikes. We want kids who can make routine plays and we’re looking for kids to have quality at-bats. As we get into a routine, all that stuff will start to flow for us.”
The Area 4 North will consist of five teams this year — Pepsi, Dr. Randol’s. North Coos, South Coos and Grants Pass. Hidden Valley and Cascade Christian are playing independent schedules.
“We’re talking five-six weeks where you play 30-plus games in roughly 45 days,” O’Byrne said. “It’s fast and furious with the summer schedule, but we enjoy it. It’s kind of different coming from the spring, where you have to deal with the weather all the time.”
Pepsi is the designated host team and will receive an automatic berth for the Class A state tournament at Bill Gray Stadium at Legion Field in late July.
“We talked to the kids about it last week,” O’Byrne said. “We do have the comfort of knowing we’re in, but we stressed to them we want to be playing quality baseball for most of the summer. Our goal always has been to be playing our best baseball at the end of July.”
Pepsi will meet Dr. Randol’s on Wednesday in its home opener. The single nonleague contest will start at 6 p.m.