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Westview quartet wants to take Wildcats back to title

Photo Credit: TIMES FILE PHOTO - Westview rising senior Parker Kelly was selected to Perfect Games All-American Showcase in San Diego after a stellar summer playing for Portland Baseball Club. Kelly and three other teammates suited up for PBC.

The state championship-quality core of the Westview baseball squad has refused to rest this summer.

Parker Kelly, Teagan Lind, Kenyon Yovan and Colton Sakamato — the foundation of what’s sure to be a dripping-with-talent Wildcat squad and probable preseason No. 1 in 2015 — spent the past two months scouring both the West Coast and the U.S. playing travel ball primarily for Portland Baseball Club with a few occasional cameos sprinkled in for other select squads.

All four have shown brightly on the national stage in some form or fashion as individuals. After a scalding two months and three prior years of impressing scouts, Kelly was one the nation’s 53 best players selected to the Perfect Game All-American Classic in San Diego at PETCO Park on Aug. 10, where he’ll suit up for the West squad.

Lind locked up a scholarship offer from Washington State in July and verbally committed to the Cougars as a right-handed pitcher. Yovan — Westview’s junior right-handed ace and reigning Metro Pitcher of the Year — was picked for the 2014 Area Code Games as well as the Perfect Game All-American Underclassmen Game. Sakamoto, following an injury-plagued junior season, is back to his old self running down balls in the left and right field gaps and swinging a hot bat as a right-handed hitter.

Separately, they’ve achieved great solo success. Each has raised their respective profiles in the eyes of talent evaluators around the nation who firmly have each Wildcat on their radar for future reference. Head coach Jeff Sakamato is a scout for the Seattle Mariners who helped Lind link with WSU, and PBC owner Joe Taylor made sure the travel team was entered in big tournaments with lots of scouts.

More than any independent distinction garnered this summer, these four Wildcats are augmenting themselves individually in order to return to Westview in the spring in a superior way, ready to lead the program back to state title supremacy.

Amongst themselves, amid the weekly plane rides and long bus treks, Westview’s leaders have discussed what exactly they want to bring back with them, having seen the nation’s best and experienced success.

For instance, competing against the cream of the crop, the Wildcats could ill afford to take their foot off the gas or else risk slipping up and struggling in front of pro scouts, who hold the cards to each player’s future. Each day on the travel circuit was treated like a 6A playoff contest, which is something Kelly and company want to ingrain with the rest of the talented returning Wildcats.

Upon their reentry, Westview’s nucleus wants to apply what they’ve become proficient in, not just from the club coaches, hanging around other great players and take it to the highest level.

“It’s our senior year, so we’re going to hold each other accountable, hold our team accountable, and hopefully, go out and win a state championship because that’s the goal,” said Kelly. “We’re starting to realize how important it is to bring it every day. It doesn’t matter if you’re playing it’s the state title game or an alumni game. You have to be ready to go. We’re all competitors. We all want to win, so we’ll bring that back to our high school teams and get after it.”

Photo Credit: TIMES FILE PHOTO - Westview rising junior Kenyon Yovan was handpicked for Perfect Games Underclassmen All-American Game after standing out on the hill for Portland Baseball Club this summer.

Kelly watched each of three teammates blossom in different ways, whether it’s Lind adding new pitches to his arsenal, or Sakamato scampering after deep fly balls pain-free or the University of Oregon commit Yovan maturing on the hill. Kelly’s been Yovan’s mentor the past two years, taking the fiery right-hander under his wing and trying to teach the fierce flamethrower how to accept occasional failure, but still be able to rebound from that accompanying adversity.

“Kenyon’s really grown up,” said Kelly. “I’ve been on him for quite a while. It was good to see him realize when you go against really good competition, they are going be days where you don’t dominate. It’s how you come out and compete when you don’t have your best stuff. Kenyon has one of the biggest hearts you’ll ever see. He just wants to win, so it was good for him to go up against the best and go at it.”

Sakamato “has that confidence back,” according to Kelly, who said his fellow senior is stealing bases, roaming the outfield and raking at the plate like a man with something to prove.

“When I’m pitching, and a ball goes to centerfield, I can kind of just look down and walk off the field because I know Colton’s catching it no matter where it is,” said Kelly.

A multifaceted ballplayer, who can be plugged in at all nine positions and be high-major caliber at each, Kelly’s spent most of his summer playing third base, though the Wildcat utility man takes great pride in being versatile enough to suit up anywhere.

“The more tools you have in your toolbox, the more effective you’re going be in getting the job done,” said Kelly. “I think it’s valuable to a team to not be locked down to just one position. I’ve always kind of been the guy that does whatever the team needs.”

Lind is a lifelong Cougar admirer, as all six of his dad’s brothers and sisters attended WSU. Once the 6-foot-4 hurler dug more into the Wazzu baseball program and talked to the Cougar coaches about their philosophies on pitching and what part he could potentially play, Lind said he knew it was the place for him.

Lind said once a pitcher earns his keep at WSU, they’re slotted first in the bullpen. Then, if the prospective Cougar hurler can prove he can get guys out, the staff finds a place that’s suitable for the respective individual.

“It sounds like stuff I’m compatible with, and it’s a place I’ll get an opportunity to shine, and with some work, become a key player,” said Lind. “When (WSU) gave me the opportunity to go to a place where I knew I’d love my experience, I had to jump on it.”

Photo Credit: TIMES FILE PHOTO - Westview senior right-hander Teagan Lind committed to Washington State in July, giving the Wildcats three Pac-12 starters in the same rotation next spring.

A sought-after tight end on the football field who’s primed for a big season on the gridiron, Lind looked into a couple of schools that wanted him for both baseball and football. However, the rising senior said playing baseball at the Pac-12 level was always his dream, dating back to playing on his dad’s Little League teams.

A starter for the Wildcats who threw a no-hitter against Southridge last spring, Lind came on as a closer for PBC this summer and slammed the door on a Yovan gem of a start with five strikeouts in two innings of work during a tournament in Arizona. With the help of former Oregon State left-handed closer Kevin Gunderson, who was integral part of the Beavers’ 2006-07 National Championship teams, Lind learned a new role coming out of the bullpen, and more about the art of pitching, rather than just throwing heat by opposing batters. Lind describes himself as a sinker-slider style of pitcher who throws with a three-quarter arm slot.

“(Gunderson) was more about the mental game, and that’s something you need to have as a pitcher,” said Lind. “Working guys in and out...no matter how hard you throw, it’s important.”

In Yovan, Kelly and Lind, Westview head coach Steve Antich will have three Pac-12 arms at his disposal, a trio of future collegians riding high in the spring after confidence-building summers. Couple their potential with that of Sakamato, Taiki Ishii, Keita Fabrega Jayden Hanna and Tyler Stofiel amongst many others and the Wildcats have the makings of a state championship winner. The key, Kelly said, is not buying into the hype and instead focus on the everyday improvement.

“It’s going to be tough to beat,” said Kelly. “But, we can’t think about us being higher than anybody else. We have to do our thing and get the job done. One thing I’ve been preaching to our team is ‘What are we going to do today to get better, and what are we doing to do when we’re not at our best? Are we going to be that team that rolls into that corner, or are we going to go fight for a Metro title and state championship?’.”

The formidable pitching Westview’s foursome’s faced on the club level is simply at another level compared to the Metro League, or even the state. Hurlers on the national scale can touch low-to-mid 90’s on the radar gun with effortlessness, and they’re able to compound that heat with a nasty mix of junk that’s bewildering even for the most capable hitters.

In Lind and Kelly’s mind if Westview wants it bad enough, the state championship is there for the taking, but it won’t be handed to them. Losing to upset-minded Hillsboro in the second round of the 6A playoffs last season proved that miserable point. Each team that faces the Wildcats next year will approach that contest with tenacity, so Kelly says it’s imperative Westview fights on the daily.

“You can have as many great players as you want, but it’s going to be that team that fights and claws for every run that wins it,” said Kelly. “It’s going to be that team that claws for every pitch or win it in the dugout. Our group of guys is great...it’s a group I think we can get it done with.”



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