Every season has its story. A hot or cold streak. Dramatic victories and heart-breaking defeats.
For the 10 seniors on this year’s Roseburg High School baseball team, the spring season of 2020 will be a story of unfortunate circumstance.
The COVID-19 pandemic cut short seasons for high school athletes across the country. Many promising campaigns never got off the ground as winter turned to spring and illness spread across the globe.
We’ll never know for sure, but the 2020 season looked promising on paper for the Roseburg Indians.
“I’ve got a really good feeling about this year,” said Roseburg shortstop Caden Johnson in early March, just before the season was set to begin. “I’m expecting the most out of all of our players. We’ve been playing together for so long now. The chemistry just keeps building up between us and we’re all starting to play so good together.”
Troy Thompson, in his 18th year leading the Indians, had an experienced roster filled with nine players that were returning starters.
“We’re confident in the returners that we have,” Thompson said prior to the season’s cancellation. “We have some nice players that lead through their actions.”
To a tee, every senior felt like this season had the makings of a championship run. Nearly all of the group had been playing together and building to this moment since they could count their age on just two hands.
“I thought we would definitely go really far into the (Class 6A) playoffs and have a shot at our first state title,” Luke Van Norman said. “All of our seniors were finally completely developed and had a whole bunch of experience under our belt as a team, playing in the summer and our spring season.”
Ultimately, this class never got its pinnacle moment. The hard part to swallow is that it wasn’t a called strike three or a costly error that stole their curtain call.
“I feel like that’s part of where our sorrow comes from,” Spencer Six said. “We don’t really have the opportunity to change anything. This is just kind of like an unlucky stretch of time that it happened.”
Anderson made an immediate impact for Roseburg’s varsity baseball team after transferring into the program as a junior. He was Roseburg’s top arm out of the bullpen and finished his junior year with a 1.05 ERA in 13.1 innings pitched (six appearances).
Anderson was likely going to move into the starting rotation as a senior and he was working hard to take advantage of the situation.
“I put in a lot of extra time after summer ball. I kept throwing, I was running everyday, I was lifting and I was, like, in the best shape I’ve ever been in,” Anderson said.
Anderson will now move on to Umpqua Community College where he will play baseball for the Riverhawks. He’s excited to keep learning from coach Jeremiah Robbins, whom Anderson played for during the American Legion season.
“I love the coaching staff. Jeremiah, he’s a really cool guy. I love him as a coach,” Anderson said.
Best memory at RHS — “Before practice we’re all just goofing around and telling jokes and giving each other a bunch of crap. And then, like, just how quick the switch flips and we get into practice intensity and this year we all had each others’ back.”
This was to be the third season for Black on the varsity roster and after back-to-back all-conference selections, he was hoping for big things.
“My hopes were to at least be first team all-conference after getting second-team last year,” said Black. He was planning for a big year at the plate with an average over .350.
Like many of his teammates, Black was looking forward to one last chance to play with a group of friends that have been together since they were kids.
“We’ve been playing together since we were nine,” Black said. “We’ve been thinking about it a lot, about how good our age group was and how we’re all going to play together at some point.”
Black will get to continue his baseball career with a few of his high school teammates at Umpqua Community College. He signed with the Riverhawks during the fall after playing for Robbins during the American Legion season.
Best memory at RHS — “Just how fun everything was. At practices we were all having fun and having a good time, but were also getting stuff done at the same time.”
Brelage might have been looking forward to his senior season more than anyone on the Roseburg roster. The infielder missed all of his junior season due to a shoulder injury that required surgery and forced him to sit out his senior year of football.
“I had nothing for senior year, so it’s been pretty rough for me,” Brelage said. “Sometimes I look at it like it’s my fault because I chose to do it (surgery), but I feel like I had to. I had to have that surgery. It didn’t feel too good to play baseball on a pretty torn up shoulder.”
Brelage had hoped to use his senior campaign as a jump-start to his college recruitment, but now he’s uncertain if he’ll get a chance to play at the next level.
“I had that surgery to have a good senior year and try to go play for coach Robbins at UCC. I’m pretty bummed about that too, that I didn’t get a chance to try,” Brelage said.
Brelage is clinging to the hope that there will be an American Legion baseball season, where he can try to show off his talent for Robbins.
Best memory at RHS — “Every day coming to the field and working hard. I remember every day, just coming in and trying to win a state championship in the spring.”
If you looked at the middle of the Roseburg baseball lineup over the past two seasons, you saw Gillespie. He’s been a model of consistency and has brought a workmanlike approach to his game.
When asked about his goals for what was supposed to be his senior season, Gillespie replied, “Same as always. Hit really good and play good defense.”
The power-hitting outfielder has been able to accomplish those goals the last two years, hitting nearly .280 with 26 RBI and 11 extra base hits.
Gillespie will look to continue his consistent play here at home at Umpqua Community College, where he looks forward to more time learning from coach Jeremiah Robbins.
Best memory at RHS — “My freshman year I got brought up to varsity and hit a walkoff at home.”
This was going to be it for Johnson. Despite being a starter the past two seasons and earning second-team all-conference honors as a junior, Johnson wasn’t expecting to continue playing baseball in college.
“I wasn’t planning on playing college baseball, but after this I don’t know if I’m ready to hang the cleats up and go out like this,” Johnson said. “It’s just so tough.”
Johnson has been a staple in the middle of the Roseburg infield. Through two seasons he had played in 50 games and hit .285.
Now his future in the game is up in the air. Johnson has sent a few last minute emails to coaches at Eastern Oregon University and Treasure Valley Community College to see if he might have a shot at making it to the next level.
Best memory at RHS — “Getting a chance to turn double plays and field groundballs with my (older) brother Cody. That was something that was so special, that I will always look at as a super, huge baseball moment and just something that I feel like doesn’t happen very often and so I will cherish that.”
It was going to be a spring of growth for Muir, who started in eight games for the Tribe as a junior and spent most of his time as a designated hitter.
“I was trying to get better in the field and trying to get better at the plate. Just trying to be as best I can be for my team,” Muir said, but with the season wiped out it’s time to move forward.
“I’ve just been trying to take the next step forward, like trying to get a job. I’ve been living like I’m in summer, hanging out with friends and just doing the normal stuff kids would do.”
Muir plans to find employment for the summer and will enroll at Umpqua Community College in the fall to begin studying fire science.
Best memory at RHS — “At South Medford last year (2019). I wasn’t DH’ing, but I got called in to pinch-hit.” Muir battled for a six-pitch at bat and drove a full-count pitch to center field to plate two runs and give the Indians a 6-5 lead over the Panthers. Roseburg went on to win the game 7-5.
It’s hard not to think of Six and wonder what could have been. After working to become a starter as a switch-hitting freshman, Six had his bright future halted by a knee injury that wiped out his sophomore season.
Six rebounded as a junior, hitting .351 with a .500 on-base percentage, and was primed to finish his high school career as one of the state’s best in 2020.
“Sometimes I get down in the dumps a little bit just wondering about the what-ifs and what could we have done this year, but for the most part I’m just trying to look ahead to the future,” Six said.
The future will take Six to Monmouth to play for Roseburg High graduate Kellen Walker and the Western Oregon Wolves.
Best memory at RHS — “Between seven years I’ve shared so much time, probably more than anyone else, with those guys (the other seniors). And I don’t think there’d be anyone else that I’d want to spend time with on the field and that’s probably my favorite memory, that I get to spend time with those guys.”
Stoffal is facing down something harder than a clean-up hitter with the bases loaded. The reigning Southwest Conference Pitcher of the Year is having to deal with the emotions of losing his senior season.
“Obviously it sucked,” Stoffal said. “At first we (the team) were all hopeful, thinking we were still going to get to play. Obviously when it completely got canceled, we were all pretty upset about it. We’re pretty mad.”
Stoffal was gunning to retain his pitcher of the year status and improve on last year’s second-team all-state recognition. Instead, he finds himself preparing for baseball at the next level.
The right-hander has signed with Umpqua Community College and had offers from numerous other schools in the Northwest Athletic Conference South Region.
Best memory at RHS — “Last year during the preseason when we went down to Pendleton. When I was pitching against Pendleton. It was a late at night game, obviously the lights were on, it was dark outside and everyone had their lights on in their cars, watching from up top. I think I had 14 strikeouts and it was a super cool night. Every time I struck someone out, everyone honked their horns. It was really cool.”
Luke Van Norman
The spring months are where many life-long memories are made for high school seniors. Norman points out that this year, the seniors didn’t know their final memories of high school would come so soon.
“It just sucks that we didn’t get to know that our last game was our last game. That’s what sucks about it the most. We just kind of take in the last moments of all of us together on the baseball field,” Van Norman said.
The senior middle infielder was excited for his final prep season after building momentum during the summer with the Dr. Stewart’s American Legion baseball team. His time with the Docs has led to a chance to play at the collegiate level with the Umpqua Riverhawks.
Best memory at RHS — “I really enjoyed competition Wednesdays during practices. It would be trees and shrubs, all the tall people versus the short people. We had our own little competition of something different every week. We really enjoyed competing against each other.”
Watson was looking forward to his first year at the varsity level, but even more he was excited about rejoining his classmates for one last time on the diamond.
“I had been playing with most of the kids most of my life, so I was pretty excited to get back with them. It sucked that we couldn’t play together one more time,” Watson said.
The senior was looking forward to putting on the varsity jersey for the first time and getting a chance to play on the new turf field.
With high school now done, Watson has gotten a job and will move to Meridian, Idaho, in the fall to enroll at Northwest Lineman College to focus on a career in the power delivery industry.