Spring preps return to much (of my) fanfare

Grant Lucas Published Mar 25, 2014 at 12:01AM

GAME OF THE WEEK

Trailing South Eugene 11-7 heading into the bottom of the seventh inning on Friday, Mountain View put up five runs without recording an out to rally past the Axemen 12-11 in the Cougars’ season opener. Brock Powell, who was 3 for 3 for Mountain View, logged a hit in the seventh to bring the game-winning run in from second base.

PLAYERS OF THE WEEK

A pair of pitching tandems made the first week of the baseball season a memorable one. Culver’s Adam Knepp and Mack Little combined to not only lift the host Bulldogs to a 12-1 five-inning victory against La Pine last Tuesday but hold the Hawks hitless. Three days later at Eagle Point, Summit’s Eric Rutherford and Derrick Stelle combined to throw a no-hitter in a 14-1 win in five innings.

STAT OF THE WEEK

Thirty. In its first action of the season, Crook County stormed past visiting Madras in a nonconference softball doubleheader on Saturday. The Cowgirls put up 16 runs in the first game and followed up with 14 in the second to outscore the White Buffaloes 30-7 on the day. Crook County sprayed a total of 36 hits in the two games, including six apiece by Jena Ovens and Kelsee Martin.

None of us was looking forward to that 500-mile drive to the Grand Canyon during spring break 13 years ago. An eternity in a cramped sedan for eight hours? As the home run tagline of the great Los Angeles Dodgers broadcaster Vin Scully goes: Forget it.

The trip lived up to its pessimistic expectations, boasting the Greatest Hits of Family Traveling (“Stay on your side of the car,” “Maybe we should stop for directions,” and my personal favorite, “Don’t make me stop this car.”) Yet after all that, we were greeted by the North Rim, the dying sun offering last kisses to the Grand Canyon’s painted walls.

The cold, eternal ride from hell was in the rearview mirror. And it was well worth it for that dreamscape moment.

Welcome to the spring — the North Rim of all prep seasons.

Maybe it’s the ex-baseballer in me. Maybe it’s because I was a spring baby (April birthday, for those curious). The reasoning behind it is unclear. But one thing is certain: Nothing compares with this season.

The snapping of gloves on the diamond complementing the crisp, refreshing smell of freshly cut grass. The crushing ping delivered at the tee box, the swing’s soundtrack trailing the ball down the fairway. The popping gun at the track soon followed by a crowd’s roar as sprinters near the finish line. The spring season is unmatched.

I’ll admit, there is a can’t-match quality that comes with fall’s Friday night lights. You can only get the rumbling gyms in the winter. There is much more than that with the spring. And again, it might be the former baseball player in me, but another MLB Hall of Famer, Ernie Banks, summed it up best in 1986.

“Spring training means flowers, people coming outdoors, sunshine, optimism and baseball,” Mr. Cub told the New York Times. “Spring training is a time to think about being young again.”

We have endured the long, frozen months of late fall and winter that consist of dark nights and, at times, dreary days. We have survived that cold, eternal ride and have arrived at the North Rim. We can now exit the cramped sedan and prepare for that dreamscape memory.

Perhaps it is decorated with state championship trophies. Maybe it includes the stacked Sisters High baseball team that returns three all-state players, including University of Oregon commit Joey Morgan. It would not be completely out of left field (ba-dum-ch) as the Outlaws have only traveled farther into the playoffs each of the past four seasons, culminating with Sisters’ Class 4A semifinal appearance in 2013.

Baseball is a solid spring sport if state playoff runs are what you seek, especially since five Central Oregon teams have been to the semifinals of the 4A and 5A playoffs the past two seasons — two eventually playing for and falling just short of state titles (Summit 2012, Bend 2013).

Then again, no pinch-me moment is greater than what Summit’s track and field teams have accomplished in recent years. For three straight years, the Storm boys and girls have swept the Class 5A team state championships. While each are poised to repeat for a fourth consecutive time, it is the Summit girls who soak up the spotlight.

The Storm, made up of heptathletes-in-training, not only seek an eighth straight track and field championships, they are looking to do it in record-breaking fashion. Behind defending 3,000-meter champ Hannah Gindlesperger, all-around athlete Miranda Brown (who could compete in events ranging from hurdles to javelin), junior sprinter Megan Buzzas and middle-distance runner Kaely Gordon, the Storm have their eyes set on the all-time team points record.

St. Mary’s of Portland holds that mark — for now — which stands at 120.5 points set in 2010. The most Summit has ever posted at a state meet was 112.5 in 2011. But the Storm’s depth and mix of all-around athletes has Summit coach Dave Turnbull saying it is “by far the best girls team we’ve ever assembled.”

There is Summit junior Madison Odiorne shooting for a third straight 5A girls golf individual state championship, and there are the Bend High boys already cruising in the early goings — outscoring their first two opponents 30-2 — as they look to improve on last season’s second-round appearance in the Oregon High School Lacrosse Association playoffs.

It is all but certain we will have our fair share of Central Oregon spring weather (rainouts, rain delays, rain, snow). But that does not detract from what this season offers. It does not dim the sun splashing the sand-painted walls of the Grand Canyon.

This is spring in Central Oregon. This is the North Rim of prep seasons.

—Reporter: 541-383-0307, glucas@bendbulletin.com.

Rob Kerr / The Bulletin Spring sports kicked off last week in Central Oregon, including Saturday’s doubleheader between Bend and The Dalles-Wahtonka.