EASTERN MEN GET BACK INTO THE SWING
By Pierre LaBossire
Observer Staff Writer
The Eastern Oregon baseball men are looking to make some waves this year, according to coach Wes McAllaster.
The team went 5-33 last year, but has brought in a lot of new talent and almost completely re-vamped its infield.
The Eastern men have completed their preseason schedule and are just starting into their Region I conference schedule. Their conference play got off to a promising start last week with a 13-run win over Western Baptist. The men are 2-8 overall, but have a 1-1 record in conference.
McAllaster said that conference split came on the road in Salem, and will help the Eastern men's confidence.
"Overall, we've played some good baseball. I'm really pleased. We're looking to do some things this year," he said. Eastern will be looking to make the top four of the Region I conference. The top four move on to the postseason.
Five of those preseason losses came against top-ranked teams, including Linfield, No. 16-ranked George Fox and No. 1-ranked Lewis-Clark State College.
Part of the "new wave" for the Mountaineers is 240-pound first baseman Kyle Kirsch, a transfer from Lassen Community College in Northern California. McAllaster said Kirsch is being looked upon to help carry the load offensively for the Mountaineers.
Kirsch has erupted for four home runs, 11 RBIs, a .308 batting average and an .846 slugging percentage in 26 at-bats so far this season.
"He was very sporadic until last weekend," McAllaster said.
Returning to the team is all-conference honorable mention center fielder Scotty Tondevold. Tondevold has six walks, four stolen bases and a solid on-base percentage of .419 this season.
Jesse Longoria, another solid contributor from last year, will be back this year after spring break.
Other starts include second basemen Ryan Carpenter and R.J. Farrell, third baseman Dean Fore, first baseman/designated hitter Jeff Frost, Landon Johnston and Josh Melum at shortstop, and catchers Russell Mitchell and Glenn Baker.
Josh Adams is another catcher on the squad who has been getting playing time behind the plate and in other positions.
Nathan Beachy will carry much of the starter's load on mound. Beachy has a 4.95 earned run average in 20 innings this season, but much like last year, hasn't had a lot of luck, and has an 0-2 record. Beachy lost one game to Wester-Baptist by a 4-3 score and in another game, he kept the Mountaineers in it, but didn't pick up the win when Eastern won in the late innings.
Other starters include Jonas Champlain and Mike Windle. Some of the main bullpen pitchers will be Chandler Heuckel, Brandon Ferguson and Jered Evans, who has a 2.25 ERA in eight innings pitched.
The Eastern men begin home play at Snowflake Field March 20 and 21 vs. Albertson College.