Dynamic offense leads Yakima Valley baseball to playoffs | Zag Sports

May 17 – The 2011 film “Moneyball” chronicling the 2002 Oakland Athletics season emphasized a new approach to hitting, valuing steps, or other means of reaching first base as much as a single.

In today’s game, nearly everyone is embracing this once radical idea, and no NWAC team has had more success using it this season than Yakima Valley. League-leading Hank Dunn’s .571 on-base percentage paced the Yaks as they posted an NWAC-best .409 rating, helping them become the only team to produce more than seven points per game during the season. regular season.

“I like to see a lot of pitching,” said Dunn, the Yaks point guard who hit .411 to easily win the NWAC batting crown. “Our coaching staff does a lot to work on our hunts and what pitches we’re trying to hit, what pitches we’re going to look at, and so I think I really take that to heart.”

After a rare day off at the plate with just two runs in two games, Yakima Valley bounced back to score 18 runs on a Big Bend double sweep on Saturday. The Yaks hope to build on that momentum in the playoffs, which begin Thursday against Lane at Bellevue, and Dunn said he’s looking forward to ending his time at YVC on a high.

He finished fourth in the NWAC with 60 hits and second with 44 walks while tallying 19 extra hits, including three home runs. Coach Kyle Krustangel said Gonzaga’s commitment rarely chases pitches and isn’t afraid to fall behind early in the count if he doesn’t see the pitches he wants.

This willingness to wait not only for strikes, but also for throws in a specific part of the zone, represents a crucial aspect of the Yaks’ striking philosophy. Staying patient and sticking to their plans at home plate helped YVC rank fourth in the league with 227 walks, and Krustangel said they’ve also shown an ability to earn a free pass via pitches. struck.

Of course, strategy has to change when a batter faces a two-strike count, or if a pitcher stays out of the area where the Yaks want to see the ball. Dunn said they work on situational hitting every day, and Krustangel said preparation ensures they’re ready for anything, even when they don’t know what to expect from an opposing pitcher.

“If we’re hunting in the middle and the kid’s been out all day, maybe you’ve got your shot right, but there’s just no casts in your hunt,” Krustangel said. “This group has been very versatile and has done a really good job outside of training and in training and making sure we have proper plans to cover all the different things that we’re going to see.”

Dane Fraser, who hit .295 with 11 doubles in 36 games, said the rest of the team is benefiting from Dunn’s patience, allowing them to see more of what a pitcher has to offer. Krustangel said Dunn often shares valuable information about what he’s seen, like what the movement looks like on the ball and what it looks like out of the pitcher’s hand.

YVC hitters also benefit from the distraction Dunn and others can cause on base paths, where they have plenty of freedom to stay aggressive. Dunn leads the Yaks with 11 stolen steals in 15 attempts and he’s always looking for an opportunity to advance.

“We work on baserunning every day, so I think that goes with our coaching staff,” Dunn said. “They put a lot of pride in the base race, so once we get to base it’s like second nature from there.”

Nine players with at least 90 at-bats and an on-base percentage above .370 leave little weakness in the roster for the Yaks, who Krustangel said could see more game-to-game changes in the playoffs. Ryne Hays provides some power with five home runs while former Yakima Valley Pippins Corey Jarrell and Spencer Marenco both hit the heart of the lineup well.

“We’re not an overly fancy team… playing for one only gets you so far, especially early and (in) the middle of the game,” Krustangel said. “We’re looking for big numbers and this team has done a great job all year to be able to come up with big, game-changing innings.”

When hitters follow their plans and feed on the constant chatter of the dugout, runs can pile up quickly. YVC has scored four or more runs in an inning 24 times in 44 games, including six or more runs six different times.

As the 2002 Oakland A’s discovered when they lost their first playoff series, a quality offensive approach won’t guarantee playoff success, and especially a single losing game like the one YVC is slated to play Thursday. But it certainly helps to have a roster full of capable hitters, and Fraser knows sticking to their plan will give them the best chance to keep playing and upset No. 2 Bellevue for a spot in the NWAC Championship of the Week. next.

“Just don’t overdo it than it is,” Fraser said. “It’s just another baseball game and we’re an underdog, which I like. Come in and play some baseball.”

Contact Luke Thompson at [email protected]

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Helen L. Cuellar