An experienced group of returning players will be a blessing for Roseburg baseball coach Troy Thompson as the team slogs through some of the worst weather to start the spring sports season in recent memory.
“Weather-wise, in my time, this is the worst start. I can’t ever remember being behind the weather like we are right now,” said Thompson, who begins his 17th season as Roseburg’s head coach.
Over a foot of snow came down at Legion Field, home to Roseburg baseball, two weeks ago as RHS was supposed to begin tryouts and practice. Legion Field is still oversaturated, forcing Roseburg to cancel the first three games of the season this week.
“We’d like to be playing. We’d like to be on normal routine, but that’s not going to happen,” Thompson explained. “Hopefully, soon enough the weather will change and we’ll get an opportunity to actually get outside and do some things. But until that happens this is the hand we’re dealt and we’ll deal with it.”
So far, tryouts and practices have been held inside the Roseburg gym and at the indoor hitting facility at Legion Field instead of on the ball field. Despite the limitations early on, Thompson hopes that a large group of returning lettermen will help the team prepare for the season in a much shorter time span.
“Returning a number of kids that played some good innings for us last year is a good place to start,” said Thompson. “Having those guys back together is always a good start for us, but that doesn’t equate to anything other than having a nice group at practice right now that has gone through the routine before.”
The Tribe returns four All-Conference players from last year’s team that reached the second round of the state playoffs for a second consecutive season. There are also a number of everyday starters back from last year, but there are holes to fill.
Roseburg will be looking to find depth in the infield after the graduation of first team All-Conference shortstop Cody Johnson. Johnson’s younger brother Caden is expected to move to short, where he played some last season. The coaches will look to junior Luke Van Norman to take over at second base.
An outfield position is also up for grabs after Garrett Russell, a first team All-Conference selection, graduated last spring. Junior Jett Black is projected to be the man in center field, moving over from right field where he earned honorable mention recognition last year. Doran Gillespie, another junior, will also return as a starter in the outfield.
Roseburg also has to replace second team catcher Terrell Jacks, but the coaches didn’t have to look hard to find their new backstop. Spencer Six, a junior, makes his return to action after a knee injury that kept him out all of last year.
“He’s back at full speed and looks great in practice so far,” said Thompson. “Remember he played a lot of innings for us as a freshman at the varsity level. So, to have him back and be healthy is the most important thing and then to get him back on the field will be nice as well. He’ll certainly solidify our catching position.”
Six will be calling pitches for senior Zack Mandera and junior Jace Stoffal, two righties that led Roseburg on the mound last year. Mandera, a three-time All-Conference award winner, led Roseburg in numerous pitching categories in 2018 including innings pitched (61.2), wins (7) and strikeouts (57). Stoffal led the Indians in ERA (1.30) and had a 5-1 record.
Roseburg will look to fill out the rotation with Austin Anderson, a junior transfer from Glide, Jett Black, Garrett Zeimet and others.
Last year’s leading hitter returns for Roseburg as well. Jonathan Stone, a first team All-Conference selection in 2018, broke out during his junior season and hit .408 with two home runs, four doubles and nine RBI. Thompson hopes the 6-foot-7 first baseman can put together another strong season after suffering two knee injuries during basketball season.
“On the baseball field he appears to be close to 100-percent,” Thompson said. “Offensively, Jon sat in the middle of our order last year and had a tremendous year.”
Turnout for tryouts has been good, according to Thompson, but the Indians have already been hit with some significant injuries. Senior Mason Littlefield and junior Clayton Brelage both had shoulder surgeries recently and are not likely to return until late in the season, at the earliest.
Both were expected to contribute this season.
With the game cancellations, Roseburg is scheduled to start the season a week late. Roseburg’s season opener is now scheduled to be on the road at West Salem on March 19.