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Rangers get some returning gains

Dufur baseball coach C.S. Little ended up with a roster of 10 players — six claimed all-league honors — three on the first team.

Cole Parke claimed his first-team slot as a pitcher, Trever Tibbets for his play in the outfield and Josh Keyser chalked up a first-team selection as a designated hitter.

Nick Little was recognized for his production in the outfield and catcher Jake Kortge grabbed a second-team nod as a utility athlete.

Rounding the class of six was slick-fielding second baseman Bryson Caldwell, who etched his name on the honorable mention list.

“That is a good number of this team to be all-league,” coach Little said. “That is good for them. They put in all of those hours on the field and they deserved it.”

Although the Ranger season ended sooner than expected with a first-round exit on the road to Grant Union, Little saw his team win 15 games, 10 in league before losing in the district title game to Stanfield.

It was quite a turnaround from 2012, where the Rangers won 12 games, scored 46 fewer runs (161) and allowed eight more runs (177) than this year’s pitching staff.

“I think we have had a great year,” said Keyser. “We can be proud of what we were able to do. This team is still pretty young and when we get more experience, we can get even better.”

Offensively, Dufur ended up ranked ninth in the state with 207 runs scored. Nine times the Rangers have scored 11 runs or more and they were 9-0 when that happens. They were also 4-2 in games decided by two runs or less.

All but one active player will be coming back next season, with Bradley Newman set to graduate in June.

This season, Newman hit his first high school home run and capped his career with a single in his final at-bat.

“He leaves knowing the kids went to state and they will carry the legacy on,” coach Little said. “He was a big part of the team and our success this season.”

This year, Dufur was able to pick up huge season sweeps over Sherman, Horizon Christian and Heppner and added a 12-11 comeback triumph over Pilot Rock on May 14 to advance into the Blue Mountain Conference district championship game.

They ended up losing 8-3, before losing last Wednesday in John Day by a 17-3 score against Grant Union.

Dufur scored 10 or more runs in 13 games and went an undefeated 13-0 when that happened.

Of the 10 players on the roster, Kortge, Nick Little, Tibbets, Brent Sumner and Caldwell were sophomores.

Parke, Keyser and newcomer Nathan Duling were juniors, and Jon Keyser was the lone freshman.

“This is just one more stepping stone for us,” coach Little said. “In order to take another step, we have to continue to do what we did this year. We will work on the finer points of the game, the fundamentals. They get a year older and we will gain more experience. If we make progress next year that we made over this year, we will be in the money.”

Next season will be a challenge as well with a new crop of talented freshmen coming in led by Bailey Keever and Kolbe Bales along with a few others.

The Rangers will not sneak up on anyone.

The rest of the league is still in good shape, with Stanfield, Weston-McEwen and Pilot Rock expected to be back in the top of the standings with Dufur.

Coach Little knows the team will need to keep its offense moving and pitching executing to contend for a district crown.

It will not be easy by any stretch.

“We will schedule a little tougher next year, get some good teams to play against,” the coach said. “We want them to be challenged in the preseason, because we know we will be challenged again in league. These same teams that were at the top will be back again, so we have to be ready for that.”

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