KENNEWICK - "Our team word this year is resilient," first-year coach Terry Shines says of the Sunnyside High School baseball squad.
After a winless season last year, and with a youthful squad in tow for this campaign, the Grizzlies showed that resilient spirit this past Saturday during an exhibition jamboree at Southridge High School.
The 3A Sunnyside squad held 4A Walla Walla to a 2-2 tie in the first three-inning tilt and was within 5-1 of CBL 3A favorite Southridge before losing 10-1 in three innings. Neither result counts on the Grizzly season record.
In the opener, hard throwing Sunnyside transfer student Frank Salcedo settled down after issuing two first inning runs and recorded strikeouts on five of six batters in the second and third innings.
Meanwhile, resilient Sunnyside played small ball and mustered two runs to force a tie. Nate Cornelius scored both the Grizzly runs, one on a base hit by Gibby Briones and the second on a sacrifice bunt by sophomore catcher Justin Reyes.
"These guys found out they can bounce back," Shines said of the first jamboree contest.
Against Southridge, Sunnyside trailed 5-0 after two innings before pushing across a single run in the top of the third when Brennan Swofford, who attends Sunnyside Christian High School but plays for the Grizzlies, drew a walk and came around to score on a wild pitch.
The host Suns then ended the contest with five runs in their half of the third.
Despite the apparent lopsided 10-1 final score, Shines said there were positives for Sunnyside, as pitchers Briones and Buddha Palomarez combined to set down six batters on strikes.
Shines also noted that Sunnyside had three or four errors in the first inning that helped contribute to Southridge's early five-run outburst.
"With Southridge at the top of our league this year I told the guys that we held our own against them and Walla Walla," Shines said. "They (the Sunnyside players) are better than they think they are. They don't understand how good they really are."
That's not to say there aren't areas for improvement. Besides fine tuning the defense, Shines said Grizzly batters have to be more aggressive at the plate.
Noting Sunnyside had just one hit during the two three-inning contests, Shines said the Grizzlies are watching too many pitches sail through the strike zone.
"They're looking at a lot of pitches and we're trying to get them out of that," Shines said. "They need to learn that you can't let a pitcher get ahead of you."
Sunnyside has the luxury of 10 days to re-tool before its home opener against Hermiston on Tuesday, March 18.
"We'll turn the defense up a notch, keep our pitchers busy...get aggressive with the bats," Shines said of his team's focus during practice. "If we can make those plays and swing the bat we'll be fine."