MOSES LAKE — “The goal is always to win, but Donnie’s mentality is that we’re definitely going to state,” Moses Lake senior Jordan Rios said as the voice of his new head coach reverberated throughout the Chiefs baseball complex on Tuesday afternoon. “He believes, we want to win, it’s a great combination.”
A little swag and a working-man’s work ethic is what the Donnie Lindgren style of ball is all about and the Chiefs will begin the new era at the Walla Walla Jamboree on Saturday.
Lindgren, the former Big Bend Community College skipper, takes over the program from Quintz Whitaker (2013-17), who posted a 77-78 record during his seven-year tenure as the Chiefs head coach. Moses Lake finished third in the Columbia Basin Big Nine last season, but Lindgren says they can do better.
It all starts on the mound where the Chiefs return an experienced pitching rotation. The starting rotation is all right-handers with Jordan Rios (sr), Austin Valdez (sr), Vance Alvarado (jr) and Evan McLean (jr).
“It all starts with throwing strikes,” Lindgren said. “None of them are overpowering, but if they throw strikes, we’ll back them with our young core of position players. It still comes down to the least amount of errors win. Our goal is to be solid.”
Cody Goodwin and Josh Jesse are both senior backstops and will be calling the game. The pitcher will have the ultimate decision on pitch selection, but Lindgren will let his players make the call.
“I’ve spent a lot of time with both Cody and Jesse. I like the idea of us making the call because the pitcher-catcher relationship has always been important for me,” Rios said. “All of (the pitchers) have grown up together and we’re all about the same.
“I always like to think I have a little bit more on my velocity than the rest of them. But we’re all location guys and if we hit our spots we should be pretty tough.”
Valdez agreed, “This is my third varsity season, strikeouts take care of themselves as long as I just do what I do,” the veteran right-hander said. “I don’t have to strike everybody out, just give the defense a chance. We’re really young (in the field) this year. But we’ve been playing baseball together for a really long time and they know what they’re doing.”
Lindgren said when he was hired his ultimate goal as a coach is to make Moses Lake baseball significant and produce players going on to the college level.
“Maybe it’s my college coaching mentality, but I feel it’s my job to push these young men to the next level,” he said.
They’re still settling in on a starting lineup, but look for Cody Alvarado and Gabe Passey (so) at shortstop and Emmitt Tatum (jr) and Zach Valdez (jr) at second base, giving them a solid middle infield. Third baseman Dominic Signorelli (jr) and first baseman Dax Lindgren (so) are young, but experienced at the corners.
There’s not a real power hitter in the lineup although Signorelli has the pop to hit them out. Alvarado hit a grand slam in Saturday’s seven-inning scrimmage.
“I told him it was foul because I wanted him to stay out, but it was a grand slam,” Donnie Lindgren said with a laugh. “We’re a contact-hitting team. We put the ball in play and we do the little things right. The biggest thing is that we’re going to be a great base-running team.
“We won’t be crazy running the bases, but they’ll take an extra base when we need to.”
They have six seniors, seven juniors and two sophomores on the roster.
West Valley is still the team to beat in the CBBN but Wenatchee and Eastmont are also contenders. The Chiefs expect to make that significant step forward into district contention. It all gets underway on Saturday.
Rodney Harwood is a sports writer for the Columbia Basin Herald and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org