AUBURN — In the middle of it all at shortstop, Gavin Guerrero displays remarkable calm under pressure for the Olympic League and West Central District baseball champion Port Angeles Roughriders.
“I try not to get too in my head because this game can take you in so easily,” Guerrero said Wednesday after he signed to continue his baseball career for Umpqua Community College.
“Getting in your head and striking out, it’s so easy for that to carry over to the next game. That’s one of the main things I focus on, not letting the bad things that happen to me roll over to the next game.”
Port Angeles (19-4) will make its fourth consecutive Class 2A state tournament appearance — the 13th overall state trip in program history — at 1 p.m. Saturday at Auburn High School against Bellingham’s Sehome Mariners (16-9).
That game will be available via internet radio at PortAngelesbaseball.com thanks to sponsors Swain’s, J & J Construction, First Federal and Puget Sound Transfer.
If the Riders beat Sehome, they’ll face the winner of an earlier game between Columbia River and West Valley (Spokane) at 4 p.m. Saturday for a state semifinal bid. That game also will be broadcast live.
Three of the Roughriders’ four losses are to Class 3A teams and Port Angeles is 17-1 against 2A competition on the season.
Guerrero has done well at the plate thus far in the postseason. He went 2 for 4 with an RBI in the Riders’ 3-2 district-title win over Fife and overcame a couple of errors to score three runs and drive in an RBI on two hits in a district win over Steilacoom.
And he’s even better running the show at shortstop defensively.
“His skill set is so advanced in the infield he should play with confidence, because frankly, he’s more prepared than anybody I’ve ever coached as far as making plays in the infield at a high level,” Port Angeles head coach Karl Myers said.
He’s been a mainstay of the Port Angeles varsity during the spring and the Wilder Senior squad in summer for the past few years, but playing on teams with dominant pitching staffs, has been a little overshadowed but never underappreciated.
“[Baseball’s] a sport that will beat you down and hunt you out if you are overly emotional, if you aren’t confident and G is just somebody who has flown under the radar for so long,” Myers, who also coaches Wilder Senior, said.
“After the summer he had last year it’s funny to see how many times you run into coaches from all over who ask ‘Where’s your shortstop going? How’s that kid doing?’ because he’s really turned some heads.”
Guerrero may seem reserved, but Myers said that’s not the full picture.
“For a kid who really doesn’t say too much, he has an incredible personality that fuels his play,” Myers said. “Because he’s so even-keeled and confident, he doesn’t let situations get the best of him.”
He doesn’t make many, but for Guerrero it’s all about moving on from a mistake.
“I try not to get mad about a strikeout or an error, I try to just stay the same and not let it get to me because I think that’s one of the things that holds people back in this game is dwelling on your failures — because your going to fail way more than you’re going to succeed,” Guerrero said. “You need to learn how to do that to continue on and play at a high level.”
Myers said Guerrero is adept at bouncing back.
“Absolutely, he has an unspoken understanding that mistakes are going to happen and the game is hard, we don’t need to make it any harder by becoming overly emotional,” Myers said. “Whether it’s at the plate or in the field, if there’s a mistake he always makes the next play or puts together a good [at-bat].”
Guerrero is looking forward to the challenge of being a student-athlete under Umpqua head coach Jason Robbins, a three-time NAIA champion at Lewis and Clark State and being challenged to maintain a minimum 3.0 GPA, higher than other NWAC schools.
Guerrero mentioned receiving “great structure” from his family and coaches after he signed his letter of intent — something that you don’t typically expect a high school senior to appreciate.
“All my coaches I’ve had have kept me in check with baseball and my parents have kept me in check in a good way,” Guerrero said.
And if he and the Riders can do something they’ve done all season — keep their opponents in check — Port Angeles should stay alive and advance to the semifinals.
Sports reporter Michael Carman can be contacted at 360-417-3525 or [email protected]