News-Review Sports Editor
It was nice to chat with Dave York and Jeff Davis, two longtime Douglas County high school baseball coaches, over the phone on Tuesday.
Unfortunately, the conversation had to cover that ugly word we’ve gotten to know all too well during the past month — coronavirus.
Umpqua Valley Christian and North Douglas were originally scheduled to play Class 2A/1A Special District 4 games Tuesday. But their seasons have yet to begin because of the COVID-19 pandemic that has shut down sports worldwide.
The high school spring sports season in Oregon is suspended through April 28, in line with the governor’s orders to close schools through that date. Time is running out on salvaging a short season for athletes in baseball, softball, track and field, tennis, golf and lacrosse.
York, in his 20th year at Umpqua Valley Christian, was looking forward to this season coming off a state championship. The Monarchs defeated Kennedy 10-5 in nine innings in the 2019 final, capping a 27-3 campaign.
UVC has won three state titles under York, the previous two coming in 2002 and 2009.
The Monarchs lost six seniors to graduation, but returned a talented group led by all-state players CJ Gale, KC Pettibone and Sam Guastaferro.
“I was very excited about this team,” York said. “We had a lot of kids who put in a lot of offseason time. I thought they’d put up some unique numbers offensively. With the number of kids we have who can pitch, I felt we’d have a pretty complete team — certainly thought we’d get a shot at defending our blue trophy.
“I’m not (optimistic we’ll get a season), to be honest with you. We have seven seniors and a few of them have been biding time behind the group that just won the state championship. I thought we’d be pretty good, but they probably won’t get a chance. It makes me sick.”
Pettibone, who signed with Corban University, and Gale, who’ll play at Umpqua Community College, will continue their baseball careers beyond this season.
“It’s kind of a mind game right now. I’m just trying to stay positive, keep myself in shape and keep in touch with my teammates,” Gale said. “We lost some good players, but still have a lot of talent. We’ve got a lot of good arms and I see a lot of the younger kids coming up and filling those spots.”
Game days are fun for everyone, but the coaches particularly enjoy the practice time with the players.
“I miss it all,” York said. “I love coaching and being around the kids. I love working with these guys.”
At North Douglas, Davis is “hopeful” of starting his 29th season as the skipper. The Warriors finished 22-7 last year, losing to Kennedy 1-0 in the state semifinals.
Davis was honored as the 2A/1A Coach of the Year.
North Douglas lost three quality seniors in Brian Erickson, Koldan Frieze and Cal Parks, but Davis likes the makeup of this year’s squad. Austin Frieze, a third-team all-state selection as a utility player, is among the returning seniors. So are all-league selections Wyatt Beckham, Colter Anderson and Tyler Kallinger.
“This (coronavirus) was something we didn’t expect,” Davis said. “I have a lot of compassion for the kids. We have five pretty good seniors and I feel for them, along with every other senior in the state.
“I’d sure like to get a chance to compete. If we happen to get a season, we’ll be an excited bunch of Warriors.”
District 4 is a competitive baseball league with good players all over — from Riddle to Glide to Oakland to Elkton to Glendale.
We’re all keeping our fingers crossed there will be a season.