Red Raiders hope progress helps next spring

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Casey McCarthy/ Columbia Basin Herald Othello Red Raiders head coach Sonny Garza gives instruction to his player on third base in Othello.

OTHELLO — The Othello Red Raiders summer has come to a close after a one-run defeat to the Richland Bombers last Friday. Head coach Sonny Garza said while it’s a tough way to end a season, he was proud of the effort his team put forth all summer.

“It’s never good when a summer’s over or a season ends,” Garza said. “But going out knowing we did the most we could made it a little easier for us.”

The Red Raiders had 21 games this summer that were decided by two runs or fewer, finding themselves in a lot of hard-fought battles. Othello finished the summer with a record of 20-19.

Garza talked briefly about some of the players who have excelled for the team this summer, including Jaxon Rocha, who Garza said has become a leader for the team these past two years.

“He’s kind of taken the team as a leader, understanding how to play the game, doing kinds of things I’d like the team to do,” Garza said.

A player who worked his way into an everyday starter role this summer at shortstop for the Red Raiders was Nathan Garza Jr. The Red Raiders head coach talked about the work he put in the first few weeks to secure the role, becoming a go-to hitter for Othello.

“He was our best hitter, really good speed, and his stick really just lit up,” Garza said. “Every time he stepped up to the plate we kind of figured something good was going to happen.”

Joshua Garza and Trey Garza were both players the Othello coach mentioned as really coming along for the Red Raiders this summer. Garza discussed the discipline Trey Garza picked up at the plate late in the season for the team.

“He really understood what we need to do for us as a hitter,” Garza said.

This season was the Red Raiders first year playing in the American Legion 16U league. Garza said he felt the team performed well competing in a new league this summer.

“We didn’t really know what it was about, so we kind of just went in head first,” Garza said. “And I feel we did well.”

After 41 games this summer, with 20 games with the high school team in the spring, Garza said he told his players to take time to go home and relax.

“Take a break, take a couple weeks off at least,” Garza said. “If there’s something I can do after that, give me a call.”

One of the biggest benefits of working with the players on the Red Raiders during the summer is the familiarity it builds heading into the high school season next spring, Garza said.

“They already know my expectations,” Garza said. “They know the kind of things I’m going to ask of them. Once spring ball gets going, I’m hoping to be three or four steps ahead of where we were last spring with these kids being with me for two summers.”

Garza said he’s hoping the work this summer will help translate into a deeper run into the postseason next spring. The Othello coach said he hopes to finish top-three in the league next season.

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