It was summer of improvement for Dr. Stewart’s, though it ended on an offensive slump and a six-game losing streak.
The Docs finished the campaign 22-22 overall and 9-11 in American Legion baseball AAA Area 4. They hosted the state tournament at Bill Gray Stadium at Legion Field for the first time in 11 years.
They entered the final weekend of the regular season playing Medford for the league title, and had faced four of the other seven teams in the tournament field, three of which were area winners.
“We always play a tough schedule, that’s how you get better,” Docs coach Scott Shaver said. “I thought our kids improved a lot from June to the end of the season. I thought we grew up a lot over the last month of the season, as young as we were, and that was a big intention for the summer.”
Two players age-out for this summer’s 18-man roster: second-year catcher Kyler Leischner; and centerfielder Garrett Russell. Third-year pitcher Zack Mandera, a football commit to Portland State, does not expect to return.
“We’re going to miss Leischner and Russell, they were great to have around, good players for us all summer long,” Shaver said. “We’re definitely going to miss Zack — I’ve told him that I have to start watching football now. I’ve had Z for three years now and I love that kid. I wish him the best.”
That leaves Shaver with 15 potential returners next summer, most of whom saw some action in the state tournament.
“It was a great time to have the tournament here so they could see what postseason baseball is all about,” Shaver said. “We played well enough during league to be in position to be in the postseason spot, which is what you want to do every year.”
Three players are headed to college this fall — Brody Black and Luke Lucido to Umpqua Community College, and Cody Johnson to Treasure Valley C.C. — and all three can return to the Docs next year.
Cody Johnson was the team leader in innings pitched (56 1/3) and strikeouts (49) on the mound, and led the team in RBIs. Brody Black and Lucido split time at designated hitter, although Lucido started both tournament games at second base. Black was second on the team in batting average and Lucido was tied for the team lead for homers (two).
As a squad, the Docs hit .298, with seven guys hitting .300 or better.
The rest of the roster returns for either its junior or senior year of high school.
“These kids battled back,” Shaver said. “I was hard on these guys, I expected a lot and asked a lot and none of them backed up, which bodes well for next season.”
Shaver and his staff invested time in developing a pitching staff with depth and seeing those arms continue to develop between now and next summer. The team ERA was 4.538, with four guys putting up ERAs of 3.596 or better. Long-reliever Noah Burke (3.289 ERA) had the best win/loss mark at 4-0, while four others (Cody Johnson, Jace Stoffal, Payton Hope and Mandera) had three wins.
Further developing the hitters and fielders in the offseason is also in the plans.
One area the Docs hope to upgrade at is catcher, where Leischner, Zach Holland and Gabe Burke split time. Each had their strong suit and each had weaknesses. There is an expectation that Roseburg High’s Spencer Six, who missed the spring and summer while rehabbing an injury, can step into the role next year.
“We’ll look to get better at catcher next year,” Shaver said. “Spencer Six healing up helps a lot. Zach Holland being a year older helps a lot. There’s a couple of kids down below that I think can help in that position as well. Getting better in that position in hitting, but above all getting better at catching balls in the air, being better backstops, handling pitching staffs, those are things we can do to get better.”
Of the probable returnees, five will be juniors. Doran Gillespie and Jett Black were everyday players in the outfield, while Caden Johnson spent a lot of time as a middle infielder down the stretch. Drake Boroschwa was unavailable for the state tournament after dislocating a knee. Stoffal was a possible game three starter, had the Docs advanced to Monday in the tourney.
Cade Meisner, Hope, Noah Burke, Jacob Luther and Jonathan Stone — along with Holland and Gabe Burke — will all be seniors at their respective high schools.
“We’ll look to pick up another outfielder, maybe another corner guy,” Shaver said. “We have to get better from where we stopped, and then we have to push to get better, too.
“It’s not going to be a big turnover year, but there are some key spots that we need to fill. You’re always looking for more arms. We want to be more offensive.”
There are plans in the works to have players in the batting cages working with hitting coach Rod Trask and assistant head coach Eric Savage throughout the year. Several of the players were at Legion Field during the tournament doing exactly that.
“We’re going to spend some time over the winter on hitting and to hit better,” Shaver said.
The Docs were 5-5 in one-run games in the regular season and 0-2 in the state tournament.