Westview baseball bows out, looks forward to bright future
Move Westview's big-league-sized outfield fences in 10 feet or so and the Wildcats are most likely headed to the second round of the Class 6A baseball playoffs.
Trailing Sprague 4-2 in the bottom of the seventh with the bases loaded, Westview sophomore star sophomore Mason Guerra squared up an off-speed pitch and sent it soaring toward the 370' sign in center. The sound coming from the point of impact, the flight of the baseball and the talent of the culprit all gave credence to the belief that ball was sayonara, grand slam, here we come Roseburg.
But as the Olympian fan base turned its heads away expecting horror, the only thing keeping Guerra's shot contained was field's dimensions as the ball parachuted into the perched Sprague centerfielder's glove about 360 feet away from home. Ben Poole tagged up and scored from third while Cade Rickman tagged and scampered to third. However, with the tying run on third, Westview flew out to short, ending its season earlier than anticipated in a 4-3 defeat on May 20 at Westview High School.
"That game could've gone our way really easily, but they came out on top," Guerra said. "This team was full of fighters that was always going to come back. We were knocking (the Sprague pitchers) all over the park, but we were just hitting right at people. We were nailing the ball super hard, but it just kept finding gloves for some reason."
Sprague came at Guerra with a high-and-inside fastball that the sophomore said "caught him off guard" for just a split second. Guerra, who hit a solo bomb earlier in the game, explained if he had barreled up the pitch a bit more that ball would've been gone. If Westview is playing on basically any other high school field, it would be mobbing Guerra after a walk-off grand salami. Still, to hit a ball 360 feet and not fully get all of it, speaks to Guerra's power and even more so the potential he has at such an early stage of his career.
To many, the post-game headlines across the state will scream "defending state champions go down" when in reality Westview was the reigning 6A kings in name only. Guerra and Evan Williamson were the lone starters remaining from the squad that brought the Wildcats their first title since 2011. Westview was a fresh out of the box ball club reliant on youth and still won 20 games for the fifth straight year. The Wildcats started five sophomores: Guerra, Caden Rickman, Braeden Munger, Ben Munson and Josiah Shipley who could very well be the core of Westview's next great squad. Junior Dominic Barela will be back after a breakout season as will the promising freshman Jake Dodge, amongst others. The services of Williamson, Carson Carraher, Ben Poole and the rest of the senior class will be missed without a doubt. But Westview's name will be amongst the preseason state favorites for the next couple of springs. Guerra, who both grew up playing with all of the returning underclassmen and was a huge part of Westview's latest state title run, knows the best is ahead.
"By the time I'm (graduated) we're going to win at least one more (state title), for sure," Guerra said. "We've been playing together for years and our chemistry is amazing. I'm best friends with all of these guys. We're very tight. I know how they can ball. They know how I can ball. We can take one home for sure."
Munger, Barela and Munson will head a pitching staff that will stay intact for the most part going into next season. Munger is a funky southpaw with a 1970's style delivery on the mound who just so happens to wear the old school knee-high socks. Already he's tough on hitters and Guerra expects the lefty to elevate his status to elite.
"He'll be untouchable by senior year," Guerra said of Munger. "He'll be like (former Westview great) Willie Weiss but from the left-hand side. And (Barela) will shove for us, 100 percent. We have really good pitchers here that can do a lot. We just have to do jobs well in the game and hit the lab in the off-season."
Guerra helped put Westview over the top with a powerful swing that was at its best during the Wildcats' memorable run to the chip a year ago. This season was a bit of an adjustment for Guerra, who came in as the most heralded sophomore in the state. Teams, especially those in the Metro League, knew of Guerra's clout and either pitched around him or strategically went at him with a steady diet of off-speed offerings. Rarely did Guerra get anything good to hit. Yet, Guerra still put up eye-popping numbers while making the move to shortstop full-time after playing first base last year. And he was able to take on more responsibility with a group that looked to him for guidance.
"Last year nobody knew who I was," Guerra said. "As a freshman, I was getting tons of fastballs. I was just hunting fastballs first pitch. It was easy for me, almost. This year they're throwing me backward. They're coming (inside) hard. But I feel like I matured a lot as a leader on this team, taking guys under my wing, trying to show them the way to a state championship. But, we just couldn't today."
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