March 12, 2022 — When the Siuslaw High School baseball team begins the season March 15 with a doubleheader at Sutherlin, the expectation will be to improve on last season. That could be accomplished on the first day, as the Viking baseball team only won one game last year. Win both games the first day and they will double last year’s win total.
The Vikings’ goals are much higher than winning just two games. In fact, Viking Coach Tom Shinn thinks this team might be good enough to a secure SHS baseball’s first visit to the post season in quite a few years.
The high hopes have to do with the fact that this is the most experienced baseball team Siuslaw has had in quite a while. There are six seniors on the 2022 team, most of whom missed an entire baseball season in 2021 because of COVID. This senior class will be especially motivated because they are making up for lost time.
In baseball, the catcher is like the quarterback of a football team. He’s the leader on the field. The Vikings couldn’t ask for a better leader from their backstop position — senior Henry Rankin will be the on-field leader for Siuslaw.
“Henry has always been a vocal leader as well as always showing what needs to be done,” said Viking Coach Tom Shinn. “Having him behind the plate this year, at such an important position, will be very valuable. To have a good communicator, a team leader and a guy who can run everything at that position is a big plus for us.”
Another important senior will be Jason Garcia. Garcia, a pitcher, can also play the outfield, infield and even catch if needed.
“Jason is the kind of a utility guy who can do pretty much everything,” said Shinn. “He caught a lot for us last year and he'll probably fill in behind the plate occasionally if we need him. He can rundown balls in the outfield. If I need him in the infield, he can do a good job there too.”
A solid middle infield is key to any baseball team’s success, and the Vikings bring a ton of experience there, too, with seniors Beau Erickson and Isaac Garza holding down the shortstop and second-base spots respectively.
Erickson and Garza also can help Siuslaw on the mound, as both pitch as well.
“Beau will definitely be our leadoff guy as he has been for the last couple years,” said Shinn. “He’s the quarterback of the football team, so he’s got a lot of experience in pressure situations. On the mound his change-up has come a long way.”
Garza is also experienced in many kinds of baseball situations as he’s been with the SHS baseball program all four years of high school.
“Garza has a really great arm,” said Shinn. “He worked on his change-up a lot and looked really good during pitchers and catchers time. It’s going to be nice to have both those guys be able to use their change-ups to throw off the timing of hitters.”
Ethan Halpin is another senior Shinn is excited about.
“Halpin is going to be one of our main arms on the mound,” said Shinn. “He’s a tall and lanky kid who throws really firm. He mixes up his pitches well. He’s got a good breaking ball and his change-up is coming along nicely.”
Senior Ethan Aaron will also have a contributing role on the varsity squad. He pitched some for the junior varsity team last season, but, so far, it’s his bat that has the Viking coaching staff excited.
“Ethan has looked really good in the [batting] cage with the swings we’ve been taking,” said Shinn.
The Vikings will count on some non-seniors to contribute too.
Junior Ian Sissel was all-league in the outfield last season. He can also catch.
“Ian has really good speed for a kid his size,” Shinn said. “He can run down balls in the outfield. He’s also got a good strong bat.”
Other Vikings expected to make an impact include junior Victor Ayala, who is getting a shot at third base this year after playing outfield last season, and sophomore Andrew Jensen-Norman, who is a tall player that will see a lot of pitching action.
This is Siuslaw’s final year in the 4A Sky-Em League. Because of declining enrollment numbers, next year Siuslaw will play in the 3A Mountain Valley League. As is always the case, this last year in the Sky-Em will feature many solid baseball clubs.
Marist Catholic, of Eugene, is the defending league champion and is expected to field a strong team. As a private school, the Spartans can recruit players from all over the Eugene area, which makes them competitive every year.
“Marist is always bringing in quality, talented kids,” said Shinn.
Junction City and Marshfield are also expected to contend for the league title this year.
“Tony [Stavros, Junction City’s coach] has done a really good job of building his program,” Shinn added. “I was talking to Floyd [Montiel], Marshfield’s coach, and they do have a couple kids that aren’t playing this year, but they’re always solid.”
Though those three teams are traditionally at the top of the Sky-Em, Shinn sees a balanced league this year.
“Elmira and Cottage Grove can be question marks from year to year as far as what their talent level will be,” said Shinn. “I don’t think there will be anyone in the league this year that you can say will be the doormat or will dominate. Every league game will be a challenge. It’s important to me that my team shows the appropriate respect for all their opponents.”
The coach believes his Vikings can do much better than last year’s effort.
“Any time you play a team sport, a good goal to start with is to have a winning season,” said Shinn. “So, we’ll start there, and I think that’s a very attainable goal for us.”
It’s understandable that Shinn keeps his team’s goals small, but with the experience that the six seniors bring, he also thinks the Viks might surprise some people.
“I think if we can start by pulling off a winning season, maybe we can also play a little extra baseball,” said Shinn. “Last year, the top three teams in the league made the playoffs. I don’t want to put goals too high, but I think a top three finish is a possibility.”
The Siuslaw baseball team will begin its campaign for a playoff spot on March 15 when they travel to Sutherlin for a doubleheader. First game is at 2:30 p.m. Game two, which is tentatively scheduled for a 4:30 p.m. first pitch, will be broadcast here in Florence on KCST 106.9.