News for those who live, work and play in the Santiam Canyon

Santiam baseball features young squad

Reporter for The Canyon Weekly

Fourth-year Santiam baseball coach Zac Steele will have a young group of Wolverines to send out this season.

Steele told The Canyon Weekly that the 2023 squad includes just 3 returning players from the team that went 11-9 a year ago while boasting 8 seniors. Leading the way are the squad’s lone senior this season, all-league infielder Logan Hays, who will play shortstop and third base when he isn’t pitching. Other returners are sophomore Lukus Lebahn, who will catch and play in the infield and Zak Rupert, a junior who will play center field and serve as the closer on the pitching staff.

Thirteen of the 17 roster spots are occupied by freshmen and sophomores and Steele said as many as 7 of the 9 starters might be underclassmen.

“We have a strong freshman and sophomore class,” Steele said.

Mason Lindemann (P, SS, C) and Payte Hansen (P, IF) are the leaders of the freshman group.  Other players to watch are Connor Meeker (2B, OF, P) and Brayden Gutierrez (3B/1B).  Collin Storey (OF, P) and Hunter Titus (OF, IF) likely will round out the lineup.

The wild and wet spring has affected all teams, but Steele noted “being so young, it has been a challenge to get the players in game-like situations leading up to the preseason games.  I’m really excited to see our young players compete against some of the better teams in the state.”

Last season the Wolverines played in Special District 2, which included eventual state Class 2A-1A champion Kennedy, Western Christian, Culver, Country Christian/North Clackamas Christian, Sheridan and Colton. This season Santiam landed in Special District 3, which includes Blanchet Catholic, Regis, Culver, Central Linn, Monroe and East Linn Christian Academy.

“Our district looks to be one of the strongest in 2A/1A/” Steele said.  “Monroe is a perennial powerhouse program and Regis looks strong after playing a tight game with Kennedy early this season. Culver returns one of the best pitchers in the state and Blanchet made it to the semifinals in Class 3A last year as a young squad.”

Santiam is 0-3 in the early going and will be playing Harrisburg and Gaston after The Canyon Weekly presstime in a round-robin tournament at Scio. The Wolverines start league play Tuesday at Monroe. 

“I anticipate some ups and downs this year with our lack of experience,” Steele said. “The mantra of the season is: Compete. Every. Pitch.  And when adversity strikes, how are you going to handle it? The players have a strong mental fortitude and are developing a strong work ethic, but we are in a very strong league.”

Elsewhere, the Santiam softball squad is 1-2 and also facing Harrisburg and Gaston at Scio in the softball bracket of the Loggers’ tournament. The Wolverines already have started Special District 2 play with an 8-7 loss to Regis. Santiam returns to league play Thursday, April 6, with a 4:30 p.m. home game against Central Linn. 

Santiam’s track and field squad, meanwhile, does not open its season until Thursday, April 6 with a competition at Regis in Stayton. The Wolverines also compete Saturday, April 8 in a meet at Sisters.

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