Horizon baseball takes on challenge of building year

The results of Horizon Christian School’s first three baseball games this young season reflect the makeup of this year’s team.

Horizon’s mix of inexperienced players along with four returning full-time starters has resulted in some inconsistent play. That’s reflected in the Hawks’ 1-2 start (an 8-6 home win vs. Condon, and road losses against Class 4A Ridgeview and 3A Creswell).

The 4-2 loss to Ridgeview last Saturday was the team’s best outing to date. The game was played at Volcanoes Stadium in Keizer, the site of the season-ending state championship games later this spring. Horizon led 2-0 after two and a half innings, but three unearned runs helped the Ravens pull out the win. A day later, Horizon again suffered some fielding woes—- as well as allowed nine walks — as Creswell won, 13-5.

“We’re getting out the kinks from basketball and it’s going to take another week or so to get into baseball mode,” second-year coach Joe Petshow said. “Nine of our 16 players are underclassmen, and most of them haven’t played baseball for at least two years.”

That said, there is some talent to build upon. Jake Wells, one of only two seniors on the roster, was an honorable mention all-league pitcher last season. The 6-foot-7 right-hander, an all-state basketball player on the Hawks Class 1A runner-up team, is getting some interest from colleges, according to Petshow.

“The sky is the limit for Jake if he decides to focus on baseball in college,” Petshow said. “Like a lot of players his age there are some mechanical things in his delivery that he needs to improve on. But he’s a good athlete, capable of playing either sport at the next level.”

Lead-off hitter Micah Engel is the team’s best pure hitter, according to the coach. Engel, a junior, will play a variety of positions, including catcher, outfield and pitcher. He and Wells combined on a four-hitter against Ridgeview.

“Micah is about as fluid as a player as you will find at our level,” Petshow said. “He is quick (four stolen bases in three games), he can hit, hit for power, and right now he’s our No. 2 pitcher. When you watch Micah at bat, you say, ‘Now there’s a baseball player.’”

The other two full-time starters back from last season are junior Ian Rasmussen (honorable mention all-league) and sophomore RJ Hicks. Both will pitch and catch, and can play either infield or outfield. Rasmussen led the team in triples in 2012, and Hicks showed he has some pop by hitting his first career home run in his first at-bat in the opener against Condon.

A newcomer to the team, junior transfer Kirby Carter has secured a spot early on in the batting order. Carter is versatile player, who will play infield and pitch.

“Kirby has emerged as a leader with his work ethic and demeanor,” Petshow said. “Though he’s new to the school, he’s a great person and a great teammate. He and Micah have great baseball IQs; they’re good role models for the younger players.”

Horizon’s other upperclassmen are juniors Brent Smith and Amar Mann, both who played on Horizon’s state playoff team a year ago. Senior Aman Mann is out for baseball for the first time. “Aman’s baseball journey will probably be a microcosm of our team’s,” Petshow said. “He’s been a club soccer player for many years and is very athletic. But he’s just learning the game of baseball. As he gets more comfortable, gets in more repetitions, he’s going to have some success.”

Horizon resumes its game schedule after spring break with an April 2 contest at Hood River Valley’s junior varsity and an April 5 home contest vs. Salem Academy. The Hawks open District 6 2A/1A play with an April 6 doubleheader against Heppner at Collins Field.

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