Hood River Valley High School varsity baseball spent last week playing and watching baseball on the sunny fields of Phoenix, Ariz., in the first spring break trip the team has taken in several years.
With suntans and quite a bit more experience to show for the trip, the team returns to the heart of the spring season with big games this week at Jesuit (April 2) and Bend (April 6) and another next week vs. Redmond (home April 9, 4:30 p.m.) before starting league play April 12 at Pendleton.
“It was all baseball,” coach Erich Harjo said of the trip. “We played four games and watched a lot more, including Diamondbacks, Royals and Cubs games.”
Playing in the Coach Bob National Invitational, the HRV boys went 1-3, losing against teams from Fairview and Valor Christian in Colorado and Farmington, N.M., and defeating Alexander Dawson of Colo.
“All of our losses were close games; they were good losses, if you can call a loss good,” Harjo said. “Our games exposed a lot of things we need to work on, which is good because we have time in the season to do it. We have a lot of little things that we need to improve on, and having the time now to fix them should make a big difference once we get to our league schedule.”
Harjo said The Dalles-Wahtonka looks like the team to beat in the Columbia River Conference. The Eagle-Indians lead CRS standings with a 9-2 record and a seven-game winning streak as of Tuesday. Hermiston is second at 5-2 , followed by Hood River at 5-4 and Pendleton at 4-5.
“We’re more experienced a team than I’ve had in the past,” Harjo said. “The focus, mentality, depth and ability to have role players this season are much higher than in recent years. If we can put together good execution in later innings and execution in pitching we’ll have a shot at the league title.”
HRV’s pitching staff is deep this season, with Ty Bofferding, a senior, taking the lead role and junior Alex Jiminez and sophomores Ryan Ward and Danny Romero stepping up to start on the mound as well. Seniors Luke Kopecky (center field), Kyle Beam (catcher) and Ryan Colesar (short stop) are taking roles as team leaders. Offensively, Beam leads the team in all categories and is currently hitting over .500.
In his fourth season as the Eagles’ varsity head coach, Harjo is now working with his first batch of four-year players under his coaching. He says his long-term strategy is starting to show fruit and that players are starting to buy into his approach more and more.
“I’ve worked really hard the last few years on certain concepts, and it’s nice to see this season that some of those are really starting to take hold,” he said.
Arizona tournament highlights
March 26 vs. Fairview: 2-1 loss
HRV had 5 hits; Bofferding pitched 6.2 innings with four strikeouts and 20 first-pitch strikes; Kam Walker had two hits; Kyle Beam had 1 RBI; HRV scored one in the sixth, Fairview scored one in the first and one in the fourth for the win.
March 27 vs. Valor Christian: 7-6 loss
HRV had 10 hits; Alex Jiminez led on the mound with three strikeouts in two innings while Riley Van Hoose had two strikeouts in two innings; Beam and Kellan Duffy had two hits each; Duffy and Nick Weekly had two RBI each; HRV scored one in the first, one in the third, one in the fourth and three in the seventh. Valor had two in the third and made a comeback with five in the seventh to take the win.
March 28 vs. Dawson: 12-0 win
HRV had 11 hits; Ryan Ward had five strikeouts in five innings; Kam Walker, Duffy and Ryan Colesar led the team with two hits apiece; Duffy, Colesar and Skyler Hunter each had two RBI; HRV scored one in the first, eight in the second, one in the third and two in the fourth to end the game in five innings.
March 29 vs. Farmington: 9-6 loss
HRV had 12 hits; Danny Romero and Bofferding teamed up on the mound in the effort; Walker led the team with three hits while Beam and Ward had two apiece; Beam and Colesar each had two RBI; HRV scored two in the first, one in the fourth and three in the fifth to overcome a five-run first inning from Farmington and force extra innings. Farmington scored three in the ninth to nab the win.