CENTRAL POINT — Seamlessly integrating into the fabric of a team is no easy task, especially considering the tight-knit qualities that have characterized the Crater baseball program over the years.
Tack on the fact that you don’t even go to school with your teammates and everything gets cranked up a notch, but junior standout Larson Kindreich has fit in nicely with the Comets ever since transferring from the North Medford program last summer.
“He’s doing great and obviously has fit in nicely to what we do and is working extremely hard like everyone else,” says Crater head coach Jay Campbell. “We have some goals and he’s doing a great job of bringing his piece to the puzzle every day and making his teammates better.”
Kindreich was a second-team all-Southwest Conference pitcher in his second season at North Medford last year. He preferred not to discuss his reason for transferring.
At Crater, the left-hander has carried over that same form on the mound to complement returning senior pitchers Jacob Swartwout, Matthew Croft and Sebasten Boivin.
Kindreich is 5-0 with a 1.03 ERA and 34 strikeouts against four walks (two intentional) thus far for the Comets, who are 11-1 overall and 7-0 in Midwestern League play entering Saturday’s doubleheader at Thurston.
Crater is No. 1 in the Class 5A state power rankings at the midpoint of the season.
“My teammates have been great, the coaching staff has been great and they’ve all made it very comfortable and just let me do my thing,” says the 17-year-old Kindreich, who is home-schooled. “It’s been a real team effort. Not one person has been carrying every game. Everybody is hitting the ball well, the defense has been great and our pitching has been super from everybody.”
When not on the mound, the 6-foot-3, 185-pound Kindreich has also played a key role in right field and in the leadoff spot of the batting order. He has come on strong recently, going 6-for-9 with six runs and 10 RBIs in his last three games, and overall is batting .314 with 10 runs and 12 RBIs to complement a Crater lineup that boasts production from 1-9.
“He’s just the kind of multifaceted kid that is able to be successful wherever you put him,” says Campbell. “He does a great job of getting on base at the top of our lineup and when you put him in the outfield he covers a ton of ground and obviously on the mound he’s been real solid all year.”
Most notably, Kindreich held his own for a 2-1 victory over Century standout and Oregon commit Kolby Somers earlier this spring. Somers was the more dominant of the two, striking out 13 and allowing only one hit with three walks and one hit batter, but the up-and-coming Kindreich was effective as he struck out six and scattered seven hits with one walk and one hit batter.
For Kindreich in that game, his grit and determination proved to be the ultimate factor in quieting the Century lineup.
“He is a very competitive kid and he has a high baseball IQ,” says Campbell. “You can really not tell if he’s flustered or is doing great, with his body language and emotions, he just keeps everything in check so well it really makes him a solid baseball player.”
For his part, Kindreich says he just tries to keep it simple when he’s on the diamond.
“I try to treat all the games the same way, even when some obviously have higher stakes than others,” he says. “I just try to keep it simple and just go out there and play baseball. I’m very competitive, but I try to keep a clear head whenever I’m out there. If you get to the point where you’re screaming and getting made at the umpires, you’re not really enjoying the game and I really enjoy the game too much to do all that.”
And while the enjoyment definitely continues to be there for Kindreich and company, there is no sense of satisfaction for a club that advanced to the 5A quarterfinals last year and has high hopes of finishing higher this time around.
“I think we’ve all kind of had a mentality that we haven’t accomplished anything yet,” says Kindreich. “We still have a lot of games to go and a lot of good teams in a tough conference still to play so we’re not getting ahead of ourselves. I think we’ve all had the thought that we still need to work harder because we still have a lot to accomplish this season.”
Reach reporter Kris Henry at 541-776-4488, firstname.lastname@example.org, www.facebook.com/krishenryMT or www.twitter.com/Kris_Henry