Photo credit: 1460 ESPN Yakima

Three Key Players

Kaden Magana 2B/P - Magana is an excellent leadoff hitter who almost never finds himself in a slump. He had a special season last year hitting .364, and striking out just one time. Defensively he’s highly versatile, but will find himself at second base this year.

Brian Calhoun 1B/P - He’s a big time power bat in the middle of the order. Calhoun is one of the few hitters on the team that can really hit the ball deep. Defensively he’s a sure handed first basemen. Fourth year varsity guy and true team leader.

Ben Kibbe SS/P - Texas style flame thrower who can touch upper 80s with his fastball. Last year as a sophomore finished with a sub 2.50 ERA. When Kibbe is not on the mound, he’ll be holding down the shortstop position.

Overview

Zillah High School boasts some of the top athletics in the Central Washington region. Their football team regularly qualifies for state, and both basketball teams can go with any team out there.

When it comes to baseball however, Zillah hasn’t had a breakout season in quite some time. This years group is determined to change that.

The head man of the Leopards, Matt Brown, is going into his seventh season as head coach. He has a track record of putting out a winning product every single year.

Anytime you’ve got championship aspirations, pitching has to be the base for what you build your team around. Zillah has a couple quality starters in junior Ben Kibbe and senior Kaden Magana.   

The eastside tends to feature a lot of finesse pitchers, but Kibbe is the polar opposite of that. He goes after hitters, and tends to throw fastballs to get outs. While sometimes it doesn’t go where he intends, it definitely keeps hitters on their toes.

With four time All Leaguer Drew Van Kemseke now playing ball for Yakima Valley College, Magana will fill the hole he left in the rotation. Expect a lot of pitch to contact from Magana this year.

Coming out of the bullpen (and making spot starts) will be seniors Kobe Nishi and Brian Calhoun. Both of them can be counted on to get the big outs.

A returning catcher that will have a big role for Zillah this year is senior Ryan Hernandez. He possesses deceptive speed for a catcher, and will hit at the top of the order.

Also look out for freshmen Braydon Flood to receive reps at catcher. He’s a highly touted prospect, and the coaches are looking to get his bat in the lineup.

Lining the middle infield is Kibbe at shortstop and Magana at second base. When one of them is pitching, look for senior Ryker Carlisle to take their place at either infield spot.

Returning at first base is going to be Brian Calhoun. His bat is definitely his biggest contribution to the team. Last year he hit .318 with 17 RBI.

Holding down the hot corner will likely be four year varsity contributor Kobe Nishi. He’s been in the outfield for most of the last couple years, but a hole opened up at third base, and he’s ready to take it.

Nishi is another high average bat that will slide in the middle of the order.

Making his full time debut in centerfield is going to be speedster Lane Damron. He might be the fastest player on the team. The range is there in the outfield, and he’ll also create havoc on the basepaths.

Manning the corner outfield spots will be a combination of Brayden Flood, Ryker Carlisle, and Brady Damron. Given Zillah’s double-header schedule, all these guys should get at bats.

Projection

Zillah has to be praying that the weather holds up during the early part of the season. They’ve assembled a solid non-conference schedule, against teams like Cashmere and East Valley. If those games are canceled however, those are huge missed opportunities. Their biggest competition in conference is going to be Naches Valley, outside of that it should be smooth sailing. The big question for this years group is can they step up in the playoffs? It’s been first round exits the last four seasons, so this group is burning to have a signature year.

Key games

East Valley 3/19

@ Naches Valley 3/23

Cashmere 4/2