Two Eastmont summer baseball teams are representing the valley in state competition this weekend in Walla Walla and Lynden.
The Eastmont Strikers 19U team is coached by Brandon Schmitten and Eric Kuntz and the Eastmont Reds 16U team is coached by Bob Gallaher and Kyle Dockins.
Despite their most recent success, both Strikers coaches Schmitten and Kuntz said the road to their first state appearance has not been an easy one. “You know, we started off the season not doing too well. And then Coach Kuntz had a lttle saying, 1 and 8 then to State and so, that’s where we’re at right now. We started out playing really rocky. The defense was a bit rocky and then as we’ve gone on the defense has definitely improved. Our pitching has been continuously good and our hitting has improved a lot too so I just hope we continue to build as we go,” said Schmitten.
Even through the tougher games, both coaches have kept a positive outlook. Strikers coach Kuntz says that he has most enjoyed getting to know his players and watching them grow throughout the season. “We’ve had a great summer. The boys improved a lot. We’ve had a lot of fun. That’s what I’ve enjoyed a lot is see the boys improve during the season.”
The Reds, however, have had a bit of a different journey. Both Reds coaches Dockins and Gallaher said they are not surprised their team has made it this far. “It’s a strong group. We started off a great season and its just continued through all the way. We’re a very young team compared to our competitors. Most of the teams we play have incoming sophomores. We have incoming 9th graders. So we’re generally a year younger than everybody else. We came out of it as league champs in our division and a third seed to state so its been a pretty successful season so far,” said Gallaher.
Player Max Praiser agreed that his team expected to see post-season play, as they have been to the state tournament before. “Yeah I thought we would because we have lots of talent on our team and we won state when we were 12 so I figured we could make it to state with this team,” said Praiser.
Dockins said he enjoys going out on the field each day and coaching his young players. “My favorite part of the season is getting to know the young guys ’cause this is the first time we get to meet the younger kids. So getting to know them before they get into the high school program is really fun for us,” said Dockins.
Both coaches said one of the best parts of getting to coach these young teams is watching them grow and progress together. So once they’re at the high school level, they’re only more familiar with playing with each other.
Reds players Max Praiser and Jordan Singleton both agreed that playing with their future high school teammates is beneficial to their team’s success. “You kind of have team chemistry…knowing who you’re playing with,” said Praiser. Singleton added, “…it’s more of just knowing the players instead of coming up with brand new kids you’ve never met.” Dockins said, “When we’re out here watching swings or watching guys throw then we get to see moving forward what they need to work on and things they can get better at or things in their game that needs to be tweaked. So, yes, it’s definitely beneficial for us.”
Schmitten, who is accustomed to coaching at all ages, is also the coach at Eastmont High School. “You know the nice thing is that the Reds team has Kyle Dockins who is my assistant coach during the high school season, and then Bob Gallaher, who has worked in our program for quite a while. So they learn all the ins and outs of our program at an early age. It’s really nice that they get all the new information at the 8th grade and 9th grade level and then continue it through our group,” said Schmitten.
The Strikers will head out Friday for Walla Walla, and the Reds for Lynden. Both teams will play in a double-elimination style, sixteen team tournament, with one game a day. In East Wenatchee, Gabe Mercer for NCWLIFE Sports.