Crater’s Charlie Reina, left, Cory Staniforth and Josh Surgeon, right, each hit over .500 during Southern Sky play this season and lead the Comets into the Class 5A playoffs beginning Tuesday. - Jamie Lusch

Comets are a hit

CENTRAL POINT — The Crater Comets made it no secret they believed this baseball season was going to be something special.

But even with that decree, the Comets had no idea the type of numbers they'd be able to put up en route to a No. 3 ranking in the Class 5A ranks.

Led by seniors Charlie Reina, Josh Surgeon and Cory Staniforth, Crater batted .411 as a team to claim the Southern Sky Conference crown and has hit .390 overall entering Tuesday's second-round matchup with visiting Hermiston in the state playoffs.

The Comets (20-5-1) have 97 extra-base hits thus far, belting 20 of their 27 home runs during the 16-game league schedule. Crater averaged 10 runs per game during league play and has scored 241 runs in 26 games overall.

"I knew we were all crushing the ball a lot," says Staniforth, "but I didn't realize how much until coach (Jay Campbell) told us the numbers the other day. Some of those numbers are ridiculous, just not right. It's usually a couple guys hitting above .400, not almost everybody, but that's a good thing."

With a host of third-year starters, the Comets knew they were poised for a breakout campaign with so many seniors. But taking nothing for granted, to a man they put in a lot of work in the offseason to ensure this spring would be one to remember.

"I think coming into the season we had very high expectations," says Surgeon. "In the past this (senior) class has had a lot of success, but we've never capped off a season the way we would've wanted. I think everyone has worked hard to not let that happen again this season."

Reina, Surgeon and Staniforth each hit over .500 in Southern Sky play, with Reina hitting a cool .569 with a 1.059 slugging percentage, Surgeon .527 and Staniforth .509. The trio combined for 78 RBIs, 73 runs scored and 13 home runs in league.

And just when Southern Sky pitchers thought they might be able to pitch around the meat of Crater's lineup, the Comets answered with the likes of Cooper Schmelzer (.457), Jesse Warren (.444), Zach Boskovich (.432), Matt Hunt (.333) and Tyler Davis (.298).

"It might be a different guy every night," Campbell says of the spark to Crater's lineup. "That's what I think makes us dangerous. Even down at the bottom of the order we have guys that can really set the table. That's why we have such big RBI numbers, because we have guys that can get on base and score runs."

It's all forced Campbell to alter his makeup as a coach.

"I'm usually more into small-ball and bunting and moving guys over," says the second-year coach. "Now I'm hesitant to give up outs. We try now to pick a pitch we can steal a base on and then just let the guys swing away."

And swing away they have. Along with their 27 homers, the Comets have blasted 52 doubles and 18 triples heading into Tuesday.

"It's a special group in a special year," says Campbell. "I might coach another 20 years and not have numbers like this."

Reina, in his fourth year as starting catcher, is hitting .488 overall with six home runs, 13 doubles, 42 RBIs and 35 runs scored. He began his run at Crater as a leadoff hitter but has since found a natural home in the No. 3 slot.

"If there's a rally that needs to be started, Charlie's going to be right there in the middle of it," says Campbell. "He's a great athlete and can beat you in a lot of different ways with the power he has or with his speed."

Surgeon and Staniforth have been mainstays up the middle at second base and shortstop, respectively. They spent the majority of the offseason pushing one another in workouts at Anhorn Field, with Surgeon somewhat frustrated over his performance last season and Staniforth striving to become a more complete player.

The hours spent pitching to one another to hone skills certainly hasn't gone for naught, with Surgeon batting .444 overall with 32 RBIs, 39 runs and six homers and Staniforth batting .451 overall with 31 RBIs, 26 runs and four HRs.

"Josh is the workhorse of the team," says Campbell. "He works as hard as any kid I've ever coached at getting better day-in and day-out. It's good to see a kid that works so hard get rewarded with the type of year he's had."

"Cory's obviously very skilled and a good athlete," the coach says. "When the pressure's on him in the clutch situations, I'm 100 percent sure he's going to get a basehit. He's a clutch performer, offensively and defensively."

Surgeon and Staniforth both credit the focus Campbell puts on hitting in practice as reasons to the team's prowess at the plate. The Comets work about 45 minutes to an hour each practice on hitting fundamentals, rotating in three groups to keep everyone on their toes.

"It's definitely a situation where the swings have a purpose," says Campbell.

"Last year and the year before our approach at the plate wasn't as strong as we are now," adds the coach. "We pick good pitches and we make a good cut at it now."

And that's true up and down the lineup, fostering a tremendous level of confidence throughout the Crater dugout.

"I think we all just have a little swagger and a confidence that every single guy can come up to the plate and come through any minute," says Surgeon. "It's very assuring to know that if you can't come through for the team, the next guy in line is going to step in there and give it a shot and chances are he's going to come through for you."

That perfect blend of Type-A personalities and happy-go-lucky ballplayers has the Comets in the hunt for their first state title since beating North Medford for the 4A crown in 2000.

"I think we're poised to make a run," says Campbell. "You never want to look too far ahead so we're just taking it one game at a time, but we've definitely got the building blocks in place. You always need to get a couple breaks to make a run in the game of baseball, though."

Reach reporter Kris Henry at 776-4488, or e-mail

Share This Story