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Chemeketa’s baseball program eager to improve

The Chemeketa Storm men’s baseball team pose for a group shot. Photo by Terri Jacobson

It was 7 o’clock in the evening on a cold, windy February night, and the sound of metal clinking could be heard coming out of the “Shed.” The Shed is the unofficial nickname for the batting cages at Chemeketa. Even though practice ended two hours ago, Brody Wittman and a few of his teammates were still taking swings. The players could be overheard talking about their excitement for the upcoming season. “I love community college baseball…These kids here work for it…It’s a hungrier kid here and that’s what I like about it,” said Head Coach J.J. Mascolo.

Mascolo has coached at every level of collegiate baseball, having started his coaching career here at Chemeketa. After Chemeketa, he moved on to Division II Western Oregon University before eventually taking a position at Division I Fresno State University. However, Mascolo always wanted to return to where it all started. “I’ve just been kind of waiting to get my foot in the door here. When I heard there was an opportunity here, I was ready to jump on it,” he said.

There is a sense of eagerness for the new season. After a 30-20 campaign in 2016, Coach Mascolo hopes to build off of that success.

“Last year’s team was the most offensive team Chemeketa has had in the last ten years. I think we’re kind of building off that and we’re going to be pretty offensive,” Mascolo said.

In order to accomplish that, Mascolo is going to lean on the experience of his sophomores.

“We got a couple of really key sophomores at important positions: shortstop, catcher and second base,” Mascolo said. One of those sophomores is Brody Wittman, who is batting .269 on the season.

On the mound, Mascolo predicts the Storm will be more reliable this season.

“Our pitching is a little bit deeper than last year…Pitching is usually a good translation to where you’re going to be, but at the same time they have to throw strikes.”

Mascolo again expects his sophomore pitchers to contribute a lot. To date, Mascolo has been correct in his assumption. Sophomore RHP Kensaku Akiya is currently (2-3) with an ERA of 3.32. Leading the way with Akiya is fellow sophomore RHP Cade Baggerly. “He’s kind of a dark horse for us. He’s made a lot of real jumps, and I’m excited to see what he’s going to do,” Mascolo said. So far, Baggerly is (2-2) with an ERA of 4.55.

Currently, the team sits at 8-22. While making the playoffs is ultimately the goal of any team, Mascolo also stresses the importance of preparing his players for their future, both on and off the field.

“Winning is awesome. I think getting to the playoffs is something you have to strive for, that’s the goal. But along the way there’s the growing up aspect, getting ready to play at the next level, getting ready academically for the next level and getting ready for life. That’s the point of this college thing right? To get ready for life.”

Chemeketa next and final series will take place beginning May 11 at Clackamas Community College in a sequence of two doubleheaders. The first will be held at Clackamas, while the second will be held at Chemeketa on May 12.

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