The Trail AA Orioles coaching staff laid out three goals for the team at the outset of the baseball season – make the district playoffs, make the Washington state finals and win the Washington state title.
“We’ve completed two steps towards that last goal,” said Orioles coach Kyle Mace.
The Orioles will look to make that final step beginning Saturday when they join the top 16 baseball teams in Washington competing for a state championship in Lacey, Wash.
The Orioles open the six-day tournament on Saturday afternoon against Bellingham, the number-two seed out of District 1. Trail is the number-four seed out of District 3.
Bellingham is a perennial contender in Washington State American Legion baseball and should prove to be a tough opening test for the Orioles, the lone Canadian entry in the tournament.
Mace admitted he doesn’t have much of a scouting report on Bellingham but that’s the way he wants it.
“Actually I like it because the kids don’t get psyched out,” he said prior to the team’s practice on Wednesday. “We go out and play and let the kids do it and let the best team win.”
The team is getting in as much practice time as possible while resting up from its weekend district playoff run where it was one of four teams to qualify for the state championships from District 3. Mt. Spokane came out of the playoffs as the number-one seed followed by Gonzaga Prep, Asotin and Trail.
Mace explained the team went through some light throwing on Tuesday “to rest tired arms” and worked n the fundamentals in its final two practices prior to heading to the coast.
It’s the execution of those fundamentals, like bunting, relay throws, advancing the runner, that will make the difference at the state championships said Mace.
“That’s what we’ve been preaching to the kids since Day One.”
While the coaches have been stressing the fundamentals, Mace admitted the team’s demeanour has changed over the course of the season and with its current success.
“Now I’m starting to see that confidence in the players when they come to the park.”
He acknowledged it takes that confidence, even swagger, to take on the top teams, rally from a deficit and keep a positive outlook in the face of adversity.
Win or lose on Saturday, the team is back on the field Sunday against an opponent to be determined from Saturday’s results.
And it won’t get any easier.
The Yakima Valley Peppers are the defending state champions and could be next up for the Orioles should both teams win their opening games.
Prior to the start of the state championships, the team will do a little fun bonding when they take in the Seattle Mariners-Toronto Blue Jays game in Seattle Friday night before heading to Lacey, a suburb of Olympia, Wash., which is about 100 kilometres south of Seattle.