INDEPENDENCE — Jackson Holstad identified some areas for improvement in his senior season, and he’s been working hard to get better.
That’s scary for the rest of the Mid-Willamette Conference, considering the Central outfielder hit .418, with five home runs and 22 RBIs last season while being named first-team all-conference and second-team all-state at the Class 5A level.
“Physically, I wanted to maintain my physical strength in the weight room. Throughout the offseason, we were in the cages almost every night, and so I’m trying to keep improving,” Holstad said. “And mental patience is something I’m really working on. Just staying calm, trying to keep a level head because in the past I’ve kind of had a temper. I’m really working on that.”
Holstad said the mental part of the game is where he has improved the most since last season.
“Just the overall baseball knowledge,” Holstad said. “Staying savvy and knowing all the situations.”
First-year Central baseball coach Reed Rainey said Holstad has good speed and size, with tons of potential.
“He’s a great athlete, a very gifted baseball player in terms of having speed and power. He also can hit for average,” Rainey said. “He has OK arm strength, but he’s got great size, and so every time he comes to the plate, you have to account for him. And you have to decide if you want to pitch to him or you don’t want to pitch to him.”
Rainey said he’s excited to see what Holstad can do this season.
“We expect him to have a great year,” Rainey said. “He’s got all the tools and will be an integral part of our success.”
In addition to his personal goals, Holstad is hoping the Panthers can establish themselves this season as one of the best teams in the conference.
Last season, Central finished 12-14 overall and 10-11 in the conference. The Panthers lost a play-in game to Eagle Point.
“As a team, I hope all of us collectively improve as a group, and hopefully get the district title,” Holstad said. “We need to play as a unit. We all rely on each other in life because we’re such good friends. But we’ve really got to stay tight and bond throughout the season.”
Despite being young overall, Central has big goals for this season.
“We have a lot of goals — we want to win our conference, we’d like to go deep into the state playoffs and have a chance to play in early June in Salem,” Rainey said. “We have a lot of talent, we have a lot of young talent. We’re starting five sophomores, but those kids are good baseball players. The sooner the young kids gel, the better we’ll be.”
Holstad is hoping for a strong senior season, and as for next year, he still is undecided.
“Baseball somewhere,” Holstad said. “Chemeketa, (Linn-Benton), something. I don’t really know, and that’s why I’m thinking the community college route. Give me a couple years to figure it out.”
GREATER VALLEY CONFERENCE
Coach: Gregg Romero, first year.
Last year’s record: 1-15 GVC, 4-20 overall.
Noah Tavera, sr., shortstop: A second-team all-league infielder last season and a leader on the team.
Jesse Aguilar, jr., outfielder: A first-team all-leaguer after batting .352 with 17 runs scored.
Outlook: The Royal Scots are the darkhorse of the league this year with a solid core of experienced players.
Coach: Larry Keeker, fourth year.
Last year’s record: 7-9 GVC, 11-14 overall.
Matthew Ismay, sr., IF/P: A first-team all-league infielder as a junior and talented all-around athlete.
Josiah Gilbert, sr., IF/P: The ace of the staff last year when he was a first-team all-leaguer, he will be one of the top pitchers in the state this season.
Brendan Frizelle, sr., CF: An honorable mention all-league outfielder a year ago.
Outlook: The Celtics have a talented, experienced core group of seniors, but the team’s fortunes will be determined by their younger group.
Coach: Chris Lee, 18th year.
Last year’s record: 9-7 GVC, 15-13 overall.
Nick Raska, jr., P/1B: A unanimous first-team all-league pitcher as a sophomore who excelled with a .859 OPS at the plate.
Reyes Luna, jr., P/C: A three-year varsity player who had a big 1.033 OPS average last season.
Cameron Kallhoff, so., P/IF: An honorable mention all-league player last year as a freshman.
Outlook: The Vikings are young again this year and have to fill a lot of positions, but will be solid in the middle of the field.
Coach: Max Price, first year.
Last year’s record: 10-6 GVC, 15-13 overall.
Aaron Zavala, jr., C/P: A standout behind the plate who was a first-team all-league player as a sophomore last season.
Tori Doten, sr., IF/P: A good pitcher who has the potential to surprise people with his bat.
Ryan Brown, so., IF/P: Surprised people with his performance in basketball this winter and should big a big stick in baseball after being a second-team all-league infielder at Stayton last season.
Outlook: The Saxons have a young group that includes five sophomores who will play a lot of innings, but their depth on the mound should make them tough in the league.
Coach: Luke Buchheit, fifth year.
Last year’s record: 10-6 GVC, 16-12 overall.
Justin Culpepper, sr., IF: A first-team all-league player as a junior who is a solid all-around player.
Tanner Sorenson, sr., 1B: A standout three-sport athlete who was first-team all-league as a junior last season.
Max Long, jr., OF: A three-sport starter who batted .433 with a .716 slugging percentage as a sophomore when he was first-team all-league.
Outlook: The depth of experienced, talented players make the Olympians the favorite to win the Greater Valley Conference this season.
Coach: Micah Tiffin, 16th year.
Last year’s record: 13-3 GVC, 21-9 overall.
Anthony Zellner, sr., C: A second-team all-league player as a junior and has a lot of ability as a hitter.
Ross McConell, sr., IF: A second-team all-league first baseman as a junior and a solid offensive threat in the lineup.
Blake Buchheit, sr., IF: A strong point at third base last season when he was an honorable mention all-league player.
Outlook: The Titans have a large junior class that should keep the team in state playoff contention.
ALSO IN THE GVC: Forest Grove — The Vikings struggled last season, but have potential to be competitive; McMinnville — The Grizzlies, who placed second in the league a year ago, have a lot of senior talent and will contend for the league championship; West Albany — The Bulldogs have one of the top pitchers in the league in Jacob Miller and will contend for a state playoff spot.
OTHER MID-VALLEY CONFERENCES
Mid-Willamette Conference: Crescent Valley is the favorite to repeat as league champions with first-team all-state players James Anderson and Blake Sims returning. Dallas, which placed second in the league, and returns all-state infielder Tanner Earhart and should be a contender. Central has a strong core of upperclassmen with Jackson Holstad, Luis Amador, Humberto Alcaron and Peter Mendazona that provide a solid pitching staff that could make the Panthers contenders for the league title.
Oregon West Conference: The league should be a dogfight for the top spot with Philomath, North Marion and Cascade, behind league player of the year Mitchell Bell, contending for the league title. Stayton combines senior Ryan Beresford, who is returning after missing last season due to injury, with young players in Riley Nichol, Donovan Stanley, Brandon Neuarth and Jared Mitchell who will make the team a contender for the state playoffs.
PacWest Conference: Blanchet swept the league last year and has a strong group of all-leaguers back in Nick Orlandini, Tanner Fessler, Vincent Cravinho, Jack Coen, Zach Handran and Brian Coen that makes the team the league favorite again. Salem Academy has the pieces to be a contender in the league. Scio returns Caleb Clevenger, Jacob Lowther, Austin Ellis and Adam Stratemeyer from a team that placed second in the conference last year.
West Valley League: For once there is no consensus favorite for the league title. Santiam Christian was the state runner-up last season, but graduated an impressive senior class. Dayton has an experienced group of athletes including Jacob DeSmet, Kole Stuck, Chase Capener, Sabino Corona, Travis Byerley, Tristan Fergus, Zach Russell and Luke Primbs and will contend for the top spot. Sheridan has a new coach in Tyson Pratt and multiple-year starters in JT Norwood, Mason Hosley, DJ Arthur and Breton Zeman and will be improved. Willamina has an athletic group that will challenge behind Caleb Reed, Brad Milton, Tanner Onstot, Nick Colton and Ian Bruckner and have the tools to contend. Amity has a group of multi-sport athletes including Dillon Barber, Clint Hatch, Tyler Berrier and West Streeter who could make the team a playoff team.
2A Special District 2: Regis is the strong favorite to win the league championship with the return of all-league players including JaVon Logan, Brandon Piete, Charlie Gescher, Brycen Schumacher and Bryce Piete, the latter after a year lay-off from the game. Western Mennonite returns first-team all-league players in Ryo Tauchi and Sean Webster and will contend for a playoff spot. Kennedy returns first-team all-league players in Brett Traeger and Jack Suing and is always a contender for the league title.