Pros build on success in Wapiti

Grant Union baseball coach Art Thunell runs fielding drills during a preseason practice.

JOHN DAY - After winning an unprecedented seventh-straight Greater Oregon League title in 2002, the Grant Union High School baseball team is preparing to launch into a new endeavor in 2003 returning to Class 2A competition as a member of the Wapiti League.

Last year the Prospectors finished with a 13-1 record in the GOL and 22-3 overall, advancing to the quarterfinals of the 3A state tournament before dropping a 2-0 decision to Astoria.

Under the direction of Art Thunell who begins his 26th season as head coach, Grant Union has a number of talented players returning to the lineup and should be a major force to contend with this year.

Leading the returning Prospectors is senior Trevor Simmons who was named a first-team GOL all-star in 2002.

Simmons pitches and also plays on the infield, and he is joined by seniors Kyle Myers and Billy Colson, who were selected as honorable mention GOL players in 2002.

Myers plays outfield and also will see some time on the mound, and Colson spent last year at first base.

"We will be moving Billy to a middle infield position this year either shortstop or second base, and he will also be pitching some short relief for us," Thunell said.

Other returning seniors include outfielder/pitchers Brandon Hueckman and Geoff Brown, and infielder/pitcher Taylor Schmadeka.

"Geoff is our only left-hander in the bullpen, and we are going to be looking at Taylor playing at first base this year," Thunell said.

Juniors returning to the team include pitcher Matt Curtis who was a second-team GOL all-star last year, and first baseman Cody Frazier.

Thunell said Curtis will also be playing middle infield this year, either shortstop or second base, in addition to being one of the starting pitchers.

Bo Thunell and Toby Thomas are sophomore players returning to the team.

Last season, Thunell earned second-team GOL all-star honors as an infielder.

"Unfortunately, until we can get Adam (Kowing) developed a little more, we will be moving Bo back behind the plate," coach Thunell said. "Toby is a really versatile player who can play second base, in the outfield and can also catch."

New to the Prospector roster this season are senior outfielders Anthony Harper and Jeb Williams, and junior pitchers Kevin Percy and Devin Burril.

Other new players include sophomores Kerry Ashmead who pitches and plays middle-infield, outfielder/pitcher Eli McClure and catcher Kowing.

Despite having what would appear to be an abundance of pitchers, Thunell said he is a little worried about early-season games.

"We are playing a number of games early in the season and because of some eligibility problems, we will be scrambling for pitchers for our first five games," he said. "We have three players who are ineligible right now, and all of them are pitchers."

However, Thunell said everyone should be eligible and ready to play by the time the Spring Break Tournament begins on March 27.

"We have a ways to go yet," Thunell said. "We have to develop our pitchers and decide who our No. 1 and No. 2 starters on the staff are going to be, and have our seniors step up and take over as leaders. We will be just trying to get through our early-season games."

Grant Union opened the season on Friday, March 21, hosting La Pine in a single game, and traveled to Ontario for a single game on Saturday, March 22.

The Pioneer Bank Hardball Classic begins on Thursday, March 27, with Grant Union squaring off against Vernonia in a 12:30 p.m. game. PIONEER BANK HARDBALL CLASSICThursday, March 27

TimeMalone FieldMcConnell Field

10 a.m.Marist vs. LaSalleMolalla vs. Burns

12:30 p.m.GU vs. VernoniaGlide vs. LaPine

3 p.m.LaSalle vs. StaytonSisters vs. Rainier

Friday, March 28

TimeMalone FieldMcConnell Field

10 a.m.Rainier vs. LaPineVernonia vs. Glide

12:30 p.m.GU vs. MolallaBurns vs. Marist

3 p.m.Glide vs. StaytonLaSalle vs. Sisters

Saturday, March 29

TimeMalone FieldMcConnell Field

10 a.m.Burns vs. RainierMarist vs. Molalla

12:30 p.m.GU vs. GlideLaPine vs. LaSalle

3 p.m.Sisters vs. VernoniaTBA

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