Even as a gangly freshman, Cabe Reiten’s talent for scooping grounders at shortstop and tossing to first base were unmistakable.
Just four practices into Reiten’s freshman year at Olympia High School, Bears coach Todd McDougall decided Reiten was his new starting shortstop.
But first McDougall had to tell Carter Manning, then a senior and returning starter who would go on to play college baseball, that he was going to be bumped by a freshman.
Fortunately, Manning saved McDougall from the awkward conversation.
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“Carter came up to me and said, ‘Coach, where are you going to play me?’” McDougall said. “Carter could see it. He stepped aside for Cabe. It was that obvious that Cabe was something special.”
From the start, Reiten, now a junior, had a vacuum for a glove. He’s not too bad at the plate either, batting .470 last season as a sophomore.
“He’s the best infielder we’ve had,” McDougall said.
Reiten is so good that last spring, as a 16-year-old sophomore, he verbally committed to play baseball at Gonzaga. That has not stopped Pacific-10 Conference coaches from calling, hoping for a change in heart. While coaches can’t contact Reiten until June, McDougall gets frequent phone calls.
“I don’t blame Cabe for committing early,” McDougall said. “He could just focus on playing and not worry about where he was going to go. But he’s still going to get a lot of phone calls.”
Reiten’s fast track to success is rare but not unique in the South Sound.
Chehalis, last year’s 2A state champion, has two players who were penciled into the starting lineup as a freshmen – Robert Pehl and Erik Forgione. Capital, a perennial playoff contender, has one – Jordan Weiks. Like Reiten, Weiks is a wizard at shortstop, entering his senior season as a four-year-starter.
“He’s the best baseball player I have coached here,” said coach Eric Stark, who is beginning his fifth year at Capital. “And we have had many good ones. He’s possibly the next Division-I baseball player out of Capital.”
Pehl and Forgione have already accepted baseball scholarships from the University of Washington. From their first varsity games, Pehl and Forgione have put on clinics in the infield, giving Chehalis coach Tom Zuber peace of mind and opposing coaches headaches.
Pehl starts at third and is the Bearcats’ No. 1 pitcher. Zuber predicts Pehl’s future will be as a position player, not a pitcher.
“He’s such an accomplished hitter,” said Zuber, who is beginning his 20th season at Chehalis. “He’s the best high school hitter I’ve been associated with.”
Last year, Pehl batted .512, drove in 48 runs and smacked 12 home runs, earning him league MVP honors.
“He’s got such good mechanics. He can even hit to the opposite field, with power,” Zuber said. “He can hit the gap to right or pull it over the left-field fence.”
Forgione, with his speed and quickness, has wide range at shortstop, often robbing batters of hits.
“He’s Ozzie Smith-esque,” Zuber said. “He’s made some plays the last few years that will make your jaw drop.”
Last season, Forgione batted .435 and hit four homers as Chehalis’ leadoff hitter. He also started working on switch-hitting.
Zuber said he’s still getting calls from coaches asking about his two phenoms. But most of the queries are from pro scouts.
“I’m sure they’ll get drafted,” Zuber said. “This is something you coach your whole career hoping that someday you’d have the talent to get you to the promised land.”
Chehalis, led by its two major college prospects, did just that, winning the first state baseball title in school history. Now, Zuber is hoping for a repeat.
“So many things have to go right,” Zuber said. “We had seven key injuries last year. But these guys never gave up. If we could repeat, it would be monumental.”
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BLACK HILLS WOLVES
Coach: Lem Elway (sixth year).
Last season: 12-9 overall, advanced to district tournament.
Returning starters: Jonathan Worf, sr., IF; Tom Turner, sr., OF; Bryan Lounsbury, sr., P/IF; Kyle Fredricks, sr., OF; Josh Bown, jr., IF; Adam Meyer, so., IF; Josh Freeto, jr., OF/C.
Top newcomers/other key returners: Austin Lee, so., P; Devin Warner, jr., P; Kalvin Hargrave, jr. IF/P Austin Heyland, so., P; Cameron Stone, jr., C.
Coach’s outlook: “One of the best seasons in school history last year. Won first district game in school history. (The) big question: Are we reloading or rebuilding?”
Coach: Erik Stark (fifth year).
Last season: 18-4 overall, Western Cascade Conference champions, advanced to state.
Returning starters: Jourdan Weiks, sr., SS; Tyler Grand, sr., 3B/C; Colin Plaeger-Brockway, sr., P/OF; Eli Fulton, sr., P/IF; Blake Ask, sr., P/IF; Jordan Coleman, sr., C/OF; Josh Aase, sr., OF.
Top newcomers/other key returners: Jonny Lee, sr., 1B/DH; Ryne Wilmes, sr., IF/OF; Andy Benefield, jr., OF; Kenzy Forler, jr., P/utility; Darby Losey, jr., P/OF; Thomas Kerr, so., P/OF; Joey McCabe, so., IF/OF; Kameron Minor, so., P/1B.
Coach’s outlook: “We return seven all-league players off a state tournament team. We are very senior laden with many players ready to fill the shoes of those departed. As with every year at Capital, we expect to contend for a league title and continue our success getting to the state tournament.”
Coach: Jon Rooklidge (10th year).
Last season: 19-4 overall, Evergreen Conference champions.
Returning starters: Cristian Cabrera, sr., 1B; Ryan LeDuc, sr., P/3B; Ty Taylor, sr., OF; Andrew Pullin, jr., P/OF; Michael Stuart, so., IF; Cole Housden, jr., C; Jacob Payne, jr., P/IF.
Top newcomers/other key returners: Mason Musselman, jr., P/OF; Tony Stulken, jr., P/OF; Joel Lantau, so., utility; Derek Putman, so., P/OF; Brandon Conradi, so., P; Brady Cooper, sr., P; Andrew Elam, jr., P; Jaeger Evinger, jr., utility.
Coach’s outlook: “This is a solid team that is full of underclassmen. Seven of nine starters return from last year on a team that went 19-4 and won the EvCo championship.”
Coach: Tom Zuber (20th year).
Last season: 22-3 overall, 2A state champions.
Returning starters: Robert Pehl, sr., P/3B; Erik Forgione, sr., SS; Brennan Casteel, sr., 2B/3B; Yasser Khan, sr., C/3B; Mitch Gueller, jr., P/CF; Justin Wilson, sr., P/CF.
Top newcomers/other key returners: Colton Watson, jr., P/1B; Bryce Hanson, jr., OF; Keylen Steen, sr., C/3B.
Coach’s outlook: “Since we’re only losing three starters from last year’s team, we expect to be competitive and challenge for the league title again. We have a nice blend of experienced players and talented underclassmen.”
NORTH THURSTON RAMS
Coach: Lance Baker (sixth year).
Last season: 9-10 overall.
Returning starters: Ben Reece, jr., SS/P; Spenser Dorsey, jr., 1B/P; Tyler Ridgeway, so., OF/P.
Top newcomers/other key returners: PK Machado, jr., IF; Marcus Storvick, jr., IF; Matt Zeutenhorst, so., C; Andy Grantham, so., OF/P; Haden Maliska, fr., OF/P/C; Ryan Mets, fr., P/1B; Dylan Wharton, fr., OF/P; Riley Storedahl, fr., OF/P.
Coach’s outlook: “We have a team that has a passion to play, work hard and do their best.”
NORTHWEST CHRISTIAN NAVIGATORS
Coach: Damon Ford (first year).
Last season: 14-3 overall, advanced to state.
Returning starters: Zach Thomas, sr., C/P; Jordan Potis, sr., SS/P; Zach Duncan, sr., 1B; Wes Kosierowski, sr., CF; Nick Mailhot, jr., CF/P; Gabe Dominguez, jr., 2B; Tony Davis, so., 3B/C/SS.
Top newcomers/other key returners: None listed.
Coach’s outlook: “Most of the core of the state championship team (in 2009) has moved on. We’re a young team with a big core of freshmen coming up. However, the upperclassmen that we do have are strong players and great leaders.”
Coach: Todd McDougall (18th year).
Last season: Won Narrows Bay Division, advanced to state.
Returning starters: Cabe Reiten, jr., SS; Cole Loncar, sr., OF; Casey Thorpe, jr., C; Tanner Fijolek, sr., P/1B.
Top newcomers: Trevor Houser, jr., P; Michael Fairchild, so., IF; Gabe Padukiewicz, so., 3B; Joey Knight, so., OF; Leo Valenti, so., P/IF.
Coach’s outlook: “We have pretty amazing depth. We could play any combination of eight infielders and feel pretty good about it. We should be good offensively. Our biggest question is pitching. We have a lot of capable guys but little varsity experience.”
Coach: Mark Mounts (eighth year).
Last season: 8-9 overall.
Returning starters: Mitchell McComb, sr., P/OF; Cody Schneider, sr., IF/P, Dalton Delio, jr., P/OF.
Top newcomers/other key returners: Mac Shaw, so., C; Ben Hansen, so., IF; Kyle Bell, so., OF; Devin Ducharme, jr., P/IF; Justin Champion, fr., IF.
Coach’s outlook: “We have the core players back from last season when we missed the playoffs by one game, and have added some really good, young talent which will help (elevate) our game to a higher level. We are looking to build on (the) tremendous character of our players to develop a winning team, but ultimately we have a group of guys that will compete every day.”
RIVER RIDGE HAWKS
Coach: Chad Arko (11th year).
Last season: 11-13 overall, district champions, advanced to state.
Returning starters: Adam Walker, sr., C; Kenny Hill, sr., OF; Jeremy Camacho, jr., SS; Brad Wallace, so., CF.
Top newcomers/other key returners: Ryan Counard, sr., 2B; Caleb Grand, jr., 1B; Nick Justus, jr., utility; Bryce Oliver, sr., OF; Jens Omdal, jr., OF; Ben Seaton, sr., P/3B; Daniel Wharton, jr., utility.
Coach’s outlook: “We are young on the mound and inexperienced on the field except behind the plate, shortstop and center field. I said the same thing last year, and the kids still found a way to win the district title.”
Coach: Jerry Striegel (fifth year).
Last season: 1A SWW Evergreen co-champs, advanced to state.
Returning starters: Chris Bishop, sr., P/IF; Brian Cordell, sr., C; Nick Schultz, sr., OF/P; John Holman, jr., IF.
Top newcomers/other key returners: Josh Moss, sr., P/IF
Coach’s outlook: “We have very high expectations for ourselves. We realize that our league is loaded with returning players with great abilities. We hope to play well, and expect to have to play to the best of our abilities every day, every inning, every pitch to be competitive.”
Coach: Derek Weldon (first year).
Last season: 14-7 overall, advanced to district.
Returning starters: Spencer Howard, sr., P/utility; Colin McCusker, sr., P/OF; Ben Smith, sr., P/3B; Charlie Hinson, jr., P/1B.
Top newcomers/other key returners: Buddy MacNeil, sr., P/OF; Colin Patterson, sr., OF; Matt Sparkuhl, sr., C; Chase Wasson sr., P/IF; Lucas Willard, sr., OF; Ryan Tydingco, jr., utility; Rick Ahlf, jr., IF; Robbie Ortiz, jr., IF; David Padilla, so., P/OF.
Coach’s outlook: “We have an athletic, versatile group of kids this year. We have good depth on the mound and a bunch of guys that can step in and produce both offensively and defensively.”
Coach: Jamie Weeks (fourth year; first since 1993).
Last season: 8-14 overall.
Returning starters: Jace Feldmeier, sr., OF; Jordan Churchill, sr., P/IF; Michael Glasgo, jr., IF; John Williams, sr., P; Jesse Gillihan, sr., IF; Jamison Dowers, sr., OF.
Top newcomers/other key returners: Luke Shaner, sr., OF; Tyler Busch, sr., P/OF; Riston Andrews, jr., P/IF.
Coach’s outlook: “Tumwater’s baseball team is a senior-dominated team with strong pitching.”
Gail Wood and Meg Wochnick, staff writers