Huskies counting on sound defense to back solid pitching

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  • Rodney Harwood/Sun Tribune Othello center fielder Jaxon Rocha chases down a tennis ball during drills in the gym Wednesday afternoon. The Huskies’ season will be delayed a few more days because of winter storms, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t putting in the work for when the weather breaks.

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    Rodney Harwood/Sun TribuneOthello shortstop Jonathan Garza takes the throw at second base during a double play drill in the gym Wednesday afternoon.

  • Rodney Harwood/Sun Tribune Othello center fielder Jaxon Rocha chases down a tennis ball during drills in the gym Wednesday afternoon. The Huskies’ season will be delayed a few more days because of winter storms, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t putting in the work for when the weather breaks.

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    Rodney Harwood/Sun TribuneOthello shortstop Jonathan Garza takes the throw at second base during a double play drill in the gym Wednesday afternoon.

OTHELLO — Both Ellensburg coach Todd Gibson and Selah manger Mike Archer agree Sonny Garza has changed the baseball culture in Othello in just two short years.

Garza says it’s time for the Huskies to step plate and join the Central Washington Athletic Conference leaders in this his third season as the Huskies skipper. Othello finished 11-13 overall last season, 9-9 in the CWAC down in sixth place a year ago.

“We want to be in the hunt for the No. 1 and No. 2 seeds every year instead of being in the middle of the pack,” said Garza, who helped the Huskies to a 2003 2A state championship on his way to a career at San Jose State University. “That’s what I’ve been telling the kids. We have to get past that run-of-the-mill effort.

“I grew up here in Othello, and as a player, I learned what it was like to win a state championship and to play at that level. I’d like my guys to experience that.”

The 2019 club doesn’t have the big arms they had in 2003 with Matt Toffman and Garza, but they can ride the experience of senior Jonathan Garza, who’s a location guy, and play solid defense behind him to find their success.

“You obviously have to score runs when you have the chance, but the big thing is to take care of the baseball,” Garza said. “Once your No. 1 comes out, the next guy is going to be pitching to contact. You have to take care of the baseball knowing that you’re going to be getting ground balls, fly balls and you have to make the plays.

“You can get away with two or three decent guys throwing strikes if you back them up with a defense that can really take care of the baseball.”

They return Jonathan Garza (p, ss), Jaxon Rocha (cf), Trey Garza, Gage Pruneda, Jay Rodriguez (1b), Josh Garza (3b), Nathan Garza (lf), along with a number of guys that played on the AA American Legion Red Raider team the past couple of summers.

“We have some guys that have been with the program for awhile that should be able to do some things in the infield,” Garza said. “Jaxon Rocha can cover a great deal of ground in center field.

“The thing I’ve really enjoyed the past few years is seeing these kids develop. They’re growing up, they’re not the small, scrawny little kids they were two years ago.

“They’re amazing young men, but their growing into their bodies and maturing and it’s fun to see.”

Selah (20-4, 16-2 CWAC)) won the Central Washington Athletic Conference last year despite Ellensburg being a 22-game winner. Both are expected to be contender again this year. East Valley, Ephrata and Prosser were also in the postseason chase.

The Huskies have yet to get outside and the schedule is still in question, but like the rest of the state, they’ll hit the ground running when it breaks.

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