With brand-new facilities to practice and play on, and a small but seasoned roster of returners, Blanchet’s spring athletics season is shaping up to be one to watch. Here’s a quick preview of what to expect in baseball, softball, tennis, and track and field.
Head Coach: Rob Burnell
The Cavaliers enter the season looking to continue to improve on last year’s record. With a highly variable league, head coach Rob Burnell hopes to take his team to a top three league finish. Leadership from his returners and an emphasis on fundamentals will prove key to finding greater success this season.
With no J.V. level available and 15-18 students looking to play, the team faces a unique challenge. “This puts underclassmen at a distinct disadvantage,” noted Coach Burnell. “A trio of sophomores with tremendous potential to break out with a big 2020 season look to sidestep that disadvantage.” Burnell’s referring to Lupe Peralta, Sam Schindler, and Hunter Archer—all sophomores with some steady talent. Freshman Spencer Kowalski will likely make a big impact in his first season on the team, as well. As key returners, junior Aaron Nease and senior James Moore will have the opportunity to set the tone for the season with their knowledge and leadership. “There are a couple others who could also rise to the occasion,” Coach Burnell said, “and that thought for the future of Blanchet baseball is very compelling.”
The Cavaliers open with a home game against Molalla on March 16 at 4:30 p.m. Just two out of the seven league teams finished last season with a winning record, leaving the playing field relatively up for grabs this season. Coach Burnell noted that top teams Horizon Christian and Salem Academy will make another good showing this year, with Horizon Christian likely to repeat their trip to the league championship.
“My goal for the team is twofold: pitching and hitting,” Coach Burnell said. “We only had two players hit over .300 last year and I'd like to see that number increase to six or seven. With pitching, there is only one goal—throw strikes and the rest will take care of itself.”
Head Coach: Briana Brewer
The Lady Cavaliers will face tough league competition this year, but that’s no surprise in the PacWest. Having graduated five key seniors, the team will be young, but led by a few returners who know how to bring positivity and hard work to the field.
“Our two seniors Savannah Barchus and Katie Tuttle will have no problem taking on leadership roles, and setting a positive example for the underclassmen,” Coach Brewer said. Keep an eye out for sophomore Kelsey Tobias, who will provide additional support. Tobias is shaping up to have a breakout year, and Coach Brewer will undoubtedly look to her to fill the large gap left by graduates.
With an expected roster of 14, the Cavaliers will have ample numbers to fall back on to fight their way through the season.
“This is a very tough league for softball,” noted Coach Brewer. “Dayton, Yamhill Carlton, and Scio always put together quality teams. There will be a lot of competitive games this year.” The Cavaliers kick off the season with an opener at Molalla at 4:30 p.m. on March 16.
Drawing on support from her returners, Coach Brewer is excited about the season to come and the tough competition that awaits. The overall message and theme for the season? “Improving every day and enjoying the process,” said Coach Brewer.
Tennis - Boys
Head Coach: Kevin FitzPatrick
The Cavaliers may be young this season, but their underclassmen bring a dose of experience and talent to the court. A league packed with state tournament veterans will keep the team on their toes.
Led by senior Namson Zhu, the Cavaliers will rely on some young returners to gain and maintain momentum throughout the season. Junior Jerry Ruiz returns for a third year, looking to build off the great strides he made last year. Also returning are Andy Chen, Michael LeMaster, and Braeden Duffy. Diego Diaz Diaz and Ismael Lopez ended their freshmen seasons with promise, and Coach Fitzpatrick is hopeful that level of improvement will continue. “At this point, Nansom is the only senior on my roster,” Coach Fitzpatrick said. “My underclassmen will have to step up.”
The team roster currently sits at 10, but Coach Fitzpatrick is looking to add up to 4 more to carry a full complement of competitors for matches.
“As always, the league will be brutal,” Coach Fitzpatrick noted. In just league play, the Cavaliers will be competing against the returning first place (Catlin Gable), second place (OES), and third place (Valley Catholic) state finishers. In addition to their vast experience at the postseason level--they won state 8 out of the past 9 years--OES has a particularly strong freshman class this year.
Competing in such a historically talented league, Coach Fitzpatrick noted that on paper, the odds aren’t always in the Cavaliers’ favor. But hard work could propel them to a solid league finish and perhaps even on to state individually. “If we finish in the middle of the pack I would consider that a great season,” Coach Fitzpatrick said. “I would like to get a player or two into state.”
Tennis - Girls
Head Coach: Erwin Soto
The Cavaliers are carrying a full team this year, with an expected 17 athletes on the roster. With eight seniors—Katelyn Millican, Bella Alley, Doreen Capelle, Kyleah Overall, Silvia Peralta, Mariela Saldana, Joy Chen, and Olivia Marcus—there’s no shortage of leadership or experience.
The Lady Cavs kick off their season against Cascade on March 17. As part of Special District 1 for conference play, the team will also face off against Stayton, Riverdale, and Tillamook.
Within the district, Catlin Gable, Valley Catholic, and Oregon Episcopal snagged the top berths for both singles and doubles play last season.
Track & Field
Head Coach: Dave Mucken
The Cavaliers enter the 2020 season aiming to maintain their reputation as a track and field powerhouse, with the girls’ team looking to collect their 11th consecutive league title. And of course this year, they actually have a track to practice on. Previous years saw the Cavaliers constantly migrating between and driving to different spaces across town. The new track will not only save the team time, but offer more tools and opportunities for improvement.
“Cross-training is great, but we usually cross-trained more than track-trained,” Coach Mucken said. “Now, all the time we used to spend stuck in the logistics of going to practice, we can just practice! And above all, it will allow us to build our team, family, and community in a way that didn’t exist before.”
And while the Cavaliers will be a young team this year, they just might be motivated more than ever. The 3A State Track Meet will once again be held at the University of Oregon’s Hayward Field, which recently received a major, state-of-the-art overhaul. The fact that these renovations occurred the same year Blanchet received its first track and field complex? Well, the serendipity seems pretty promising.
The coaches expect 35 to 40 students coming out for the team this year, and they’re looking for an additional 10 interested students to keep a healthy roster. Talented returners on both the boys’ and girls’ sides will no doubt be key to the Cavalier’s success.
Veterans Michael Reyes and Brenden Tobias will lead the way for the boys’ throwers, with Brenden potentially looking for some podium spots in shot put and discus. In long distance, Andrew Hill and Konrad Alexander offer not only experience, but leadership, as well. Having recently signed with Regis University, Andrew has new purpose and motivation, making him a likely contender for a state bid. Senior Javian McCrae lends his impressive speed to both relays and hurdle events; look for him to appear at Hayward in multiple events. Jumpers Max Hoskins and Zeke Howell may be young, but Coach Mucken predicts they’ll make serious waves at the district meet.
The girls’ team also returns some serious talent, although their smaller roster makes them look less dominant across the league on paper. But don’t let the numbers fool you; Coach Mucken noted that this group could still pull it off with sheer heart. Sophomore and long distance runner Emma Lutz qualified for state in the 1500m as a freshman and plans to reach the podium in 2020. Kayla Greenwood and Karla Diaz-Fregoso are both strong returners to the team; with a state relay appearance under their belts, they are stronger than ever. And as a pole vaulter, jumper, and thrower, senior Shelby Gwyn is a force in all her events and hopes to vie for a state title in the pole vault.
The team will also be benefiting from the knowledge of a new sprint coach. “Coming to us as a former head coach of multiple teams in California, we are excited to put his expertise to use,” Coach Mucken said. “He is energetic, passionate, experienced, and will surely help our kids reach their goals.”
In addition to its regular schedule, Blanchet will be hosting a myriad of events at its new track. The team will host one regular season meet, one “intrasquad” meet, one dual meet with SAC (coinciding with Senior Night), and one middle school meet, as well.
The coaches are always looking for help running the high school meets, so contact Coach Mucken at firstname.lastname@example.org if you’re interested in lending a hand.
“For both of our teams, we are looking to surprise everyone with winning league titles,” Coach Mucken said. “We are far from favorites for either team, but if we can fill in a few blanks in our roster and train to our capacity, we can pull it off. Plus, we are Cavaliers, and nobody else in our league has that going for them! If we can be competitive at our league meet, we are sure to take another strong group to Eugene and play on the new, best track in the world!”