What a difference a year’s experience plus shaking the trees and bushes has done for Medical Lake baseball.
Four games into the 2013 season the Cardinals have surpassed their 2012 win total following twin maulings of Newport 14-4 and 21-1 last Saturday on the road.
Cardinals’ third-year head coach Kerry Kelly assembled 39 prospects for their return to the Northeast A League and will carry 13 of those on his varsity roster.
“It’s a group of kids that’s worked hard in the offseason and they’re seeing the rewards,” Kelly said. “It’s probably one of the best groups of attitudes I’ve had in a long time; I just think that kind of stuff wins ballgames.”
There’s something to be said about team chemistry, Kelly said.
“These are kids that when I first moved here I got myself involved in West Plains Little League,” Kelly said. “I’ve seen some of these kids since they were really little.”
The team consists of four seniors, four freshmen, three sophomores and a pair of juniors.
“We return Adam Paulson who was a first-team All-GNL player last year,” Kelly said. “Anytime we put Adam out we have an opportunity to win, I don’t care who it is.”
Kelly’s son, Kasey, a catcher, and Paulson had played together for six years, but are reunited for their senior seasons following Kelly’s time spent rehabbing in 2012 from knee surgery to fix an injury sustained in the 2011 football season. “Having Kasey come back really stabilizes the pitching,” his dad/coach said.
“The chemistry they have is not only great, but also Kasey’s a great catcher and Adam’s a really good pitcher and that combination is fun to watch.”
A team can have good pitching but if they don’t have someone who can call the game and have the pitcher’s confidence they can throw any pitch, any time, any location, it’s a big advantage, Kelly said. Sophomore Hudson Petek will be Kelly’s relief behind the plate.
Senior Taylor Dormaier and junior Roman Kissack are going to be workhorses on the Cards’ pitching staff, but the team will also see the senior Dormaier at shortstop, “Roman will pitch, play some first and third base,” Kelly said.
Dylan Rushfeldt is a sophomore who started as a freshman and played a lot at third base. “He ended the season on a good note last year,” Kelly said. “He had a strong (American) Legion summer and has picked up right where he left off.”
Kelly stresses the American Legion program as a key building block. “It really helped us get ready for this season.”
“We have something special out there under the lights, the support we have, the atmosphere,” he said.
Numbers were down in recent years but have rebounded to the point where it could be problematic, Kelly said. There’s not enough for three teams, including a C-squad, too many for two. “There are not many schools who carry C-squads,” he said.
It’s the old double-edge sword with whom to play in some instances, “Because there are so many kids of equal ability,” Kelly said. “It’s a good problem,” he added, especially in light of the previous couple of seasons when
“I’m carrying 13 kids and last year I went into doubleheaders with nine (players) and just hope that nobody got hurt.”
Cory Wagner, Jordan Calero, Aaron Sunde and Brayden Hale are the four freshmen Kelly is very excited about.
“All of them throw, all of them pitch and if I can keep that group together for the next few years, it would be a very interesting group to watch,” Kelly said.
Wagner starts in center and bats leadoff. “He’s just an athletic kid,” Kelly said of the younger brother of Ryan Wagner who graduated two years ago.
Jordan Calero starts at second and pitches and “Is a solid kid,” Kelly said. “He’s making the routine plays and getting to the point where he’s getting more effective making double plays.”
As for Hale, Kelly wasn’t sure where to put him. “He hits the ball; he’s had some good at bats, some clutch hits,” Kelly said.
Kelly joked that Sunde “Is about 85 pounds, but this kid lives and breaths baseball.” Sunde is the classic student of the game, always asking questions. “He’s just a sponge,” who plays infield, pitches and is the first left-handed batter Kelly’s had. As a pitcher he locates the ball well and throws strikes.
Senior Tim Sersig and junior Connor Cranston round out the roster.
Kelly is assisted by coaches Josh Smith and Ryan Reitmeier.
Paul Delaney can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.