GRANTS PASS — The Demarini Dirtbags saw their season come to a close earlier than they had hoped.
The Dirtbags lost to the Eugene Challengers on Friday, eliminating them from the AAA state tournament in Roseburg.
“Overall, we competed really well,” Dirtbags coach Miles Kizer said. “It was a tough way to go. We had a couple things not quite go our way. Eugene came out and got after us a little bit and we didn’t quite have the answer or the big hits when we needed them.”
The Dirtbags opened the tournament on July 30, falling to eventual champions Medford, 7-4. The squad defeated host Grants Pass 11-3 on Thursday. Pitcher Kade Mechals earned the win while Andy Armstrong hit a home run. Sam Swenson recorded a triple and Jarett Peterson, Connor Mattison, Zach Rhoads and Armstrong all added doubles.
For Kizer, this season was as much about learning as it was about leading.
Kizer played for Western Oregon’s baseball team in 2011, where he started 18 games at catcher.
He’s served as an assistant coach on the Wolves’ baseball staff for the previous three seasons.
In 2013, Kizer became head coach of the Dirtbags.
“Being a head coach is quite a bit different than being an assistant coach,” Kizer said. “I’ve learned a lot each of the last two years and hope I can carry that into next year. Being around the game is something I want to continue to do. This is something I’ve really enjoyed being able to be a part of.”
Kizer is using the experience he’s gaining from both Western Oregon and the Dirtbags to help him grow.
“It’s the circle of knowledge. You learn something new every year,” Kizer said. “Then it becomes about knowledge transfer. I can learn something here and take it back to Western. Baseball is a funny game and you see the same mistakes made at every age level.”
Kizer’s experience paid off for the Dirtbags, who earned back-to-back berths to the AAA state tournament. During this season, Kizer said he saw a roster, including Dallas High School players Logan Hatley, Dakota Nelson, Tucker Weaver, Seth Fast and more, show major improvement.
“Offensively, the guys got a lot better at picking out the right pitches to swing at,” Kizer said. “Pitching-wise, we had a different attitude later in the season, going after people and attacking hitters.”
As the Dirtbags bid farewell to their 2014 season, Kizer said this year was a big success for everyone involved.
“The biggest thing you can get guys to do is compete for the entire summer and an entire game,” Kizer said. “I think that’s one thing we did really well this summer. It was good to see because you know it’s doable and that I have the ability to push kids to achieve that.”