Post 84’s a proving ground

Saunders looks to regain his form while other players prepare for college careers
By: Eric J. Gourley Journal Sports Writer
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Cole Saunders is relishing his first opportunity to play summer baseball. At Del Oro High, football consumed his hot months. American Legion didn’t fit into his first college summer, either. After leaving the University of Nevada after the fall semester to pitch at Sierra College, Saunders was looking for a way to continue rounding back into the ace form that led the Golden Eagles to the Sac-Joaquin Section Division II championship game in 2008. “Mainly I just needed to get innings in to stay sharp,” said Saunders, who is a key component of Auburn Post 84’s senior club. “As a pitcher you can take time off, but you want to stay sharp and if you’re not throwing your arm gets weak and you lose velocity. I knew I’d pitch a lot and it’s close to home, so I wanted to come out here.” Saunders is one of seven Del Oro products on the Post 84 roster, which also includes Jake Bews and Kenny Zuvela. Both have a season of junior college experience. “You notice that they work a lot harder than some of the guys and it shows the other guys how hard they need to work if they want to play college baseball and if this team wants to be successful,” said infielder Griffin Quick, a recent Placer graduate in his third year of Legion ball. Quick is hoping his second season with Post 84 will prepare him for the next level, too. He plans to walk on at Chico State next year. “I see this as a transition period, because I’m graduating high school and I’m going to try to play in college,” he said. “There are a lot of good junior college players who we play against, so it gives me a good opportunity to see what the talent is going to look like at the next level.” Post 84 features several local high school standouts to complement the college talent. “We were competitive last year, but we have a little more depth this year, especially now that some of the kids are older,” head coach Dan Quick said. Luke Taylor, a switch-hitting second baseman from Forest Lake Christian, is coming off another successful season with the Falcons during which he hit an eye-popping .660. Placer’s Matt Dougherty can pitch, play third base and swing a heavy bat. He returns alongside Colfax catcher Cory Nann. Dougherty will share a majority of the mound time with Saunders and Cole Perez, who was a junior surprise for the Golden Eagles this spring. “Both Coles are capable of going out and giving us seven innings,” Dan Quick said. Zane Butler of Lakeport has emerged as an option for short relief. A dozen games into the season, schedule conflicts have been the biggest issue for Post 84. “Attendance has been the toughest thing to get over,” the coach said. “You’ve got people going on trips and you’ve got people graduating.” The team played a doubleheader in West Sacramento the morning after Colfax, Del Oro and Placer graduation ceremonies. “It was a 10:30 start,” Quick said. “We started the day with 11, and five of those guys had been to graduation the night before, so they were operating on four hours of sleep. I have all the schedules of everybody’s conflicts on a calendar so we can make sure we can field a team, so when we’re going to be low on people we know. If we start getting full attendance and we can get past the scheduling conflicts, I think we’re going to be a more competitive team.” In addition to appearing in district playoffs, players like Saunders are looking to improve before their next school season. “I felt like I wasn’t pitching as well as I should have at Sierra,” he said. “I felt like I kind of took a step back because I wasn’t playing much because I was a freshman. I just didn’t like it at Nevada. It wasn’t the right fit for me. This year has just been tough for me. I knew coming out here would get my mind better and I’d be pitching a lot more and getting back to it, back to how I used to pitch. Right now I feel like I’m pitching as well as I was in high school.” Summer ball is the perfect atmosphere for Saunders. “It’s more relaxing,” he said. “It’s not all uptight. It’s fun just being with the guys, playing baseball. All these guys were on my team when I was a senior they were juniors, and then Kenny Zuvela and Jake Bews were seniors with me. It’s cool to get to play with them again because I don’t get to play with any of these guys anymore. It’s cool. It kind of brings back some high school memories.”