Dirtbags head to state

POLK COUNTY — The Demarini Dirtbags are headed back to the American Legion state tournament in Klamath Falls on Wednesday (today).

They’re ready to settle some unfinished business.

“We’re all trying to win it,” Central graduate Jackson Holstad said. “The coaching staff, the players, we all have the mindset going in of winning the whole thing.”

The Dirtbags advanced to day four of the state tournament in 2016, before being eliminated.

Players hope for a different ending this time around.

“I don’t think we’ve peaked yet,” Holstad said. “Early on, we were doing really well, then we hit a little slump. Not necessarily in losses, but in productiveness as a team. I think we’re ready to hit our peak at state.”

The Dirtbags know that being at their best will be necessary in order to bring home a state title.

“We have to come together, give it our all and play as a team,” Dallas junior Eric Kessler said.

The team, which draws from a number of area high schools, brings together players who may not be used to playing together. That hasn’t stopped them from establishing relationships on and off the field and quickly finding the chemistry necessary for success.

“We all come from the same area and we all have the same want on what we want to do out here,” Kessler said.

The Dirtbags (27-7 overall) will open the double-elimination tournament against the Willamette Valley Titans (17-18 overall) Wednesday (today) at 4 p.m.

“Our pitching staff will have to be at its best,” Holstad said. “But I think we have one of the best staffs in our league and I think in the state. They’ll have to be dialed in.”

Facing some of the best players in the state, there is little room for error, Holstad said. The added intensity begins far before they take the field.

“The level of baseball is way higher (than the spring),” Holstad said. “The coaching staff is a little more intense, but I like it. (Coaches) Scot McDonald and Miles Kizer will really get on you if you mess up. It wasn’t really like that for me or Luis (Amador) and Humberto (Alarcon) during the spring. Being seniors, we were kind of left to correct our own mistakes. Now, I’m really aware when I mess up.”

But that added focus has led the Dirtbags to a first-place finish in its league and a chance to take home a state title.

“We definitely feel like we have the tools,” Holstad said. “We like to score runs early and like to score runs late. Some teams are just like that, but we’re really fully capable of pulling a game out late. It’s really fun, and all the guys are super awesome.”

The Dirtbags know in order to achieve their ultimate goal, they can’t overlook anyone and can’t afford to make many errors. If they can avoid that, players are confident about their chances.

“We have to play clean baseball, play Dirtbag baseball and take it one game at a time,” 2017 Central High graduate Luis Amador said. “We have to grind it out every pitch, give 100 percent every pitch and stay locked in the whole game.”

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