Casarez makes way back to baseball

05/19/2017 21:19

Shortstop for playoff-bound Lane had worked logging job after graduating from Lowell High

By Jarrid Denney For The Register-Guard

At this time four years ago, Lane sophomore Boone Casarez was sure his baseball career was over.

The former Lowell High School standout came to Lane after graduating in 2012 with the intention of playing baseball, but when an injury caused him to take a redshirt year, life responsibilities got in the way and baseball was pushed to the back burner.

After three years mostly spent working as a logger, circumstances changed. Casarez has made his way back to Lane and become a sparkplug for a Titans team that has fought its way back from an abysmal start to the season.

The Titans are hosting the South Super Regionals this weekend with a trip to the Northwest Athletic Conference Championships on the line. It took miraculous comeback stories from both the team and Casarez to get to the postseason.

“I started working, started logging,” Casarez, 24, said. “I got married and had a daughter. Last fall I was in a spot where I just wanted to change it up a little bit, and me and my wife financially could. So I thought, if I’m gonna come to school, I might as well go try to play baseball.”

Now, he is the starting shortstop and has spent much of the year hitting in the No. 2 spot for a Lane team that has won seven of its past 10 games.

With seven freshmen in the starting lineup on most days, Casarez has provided a steady presence for the Titans, who have bounced back from a 1-9 start.

“A lot of the kids, when they first showed up, thought I was a coach,” Casarez said, laughing. “I had a big burly logging beard at the start of the year. … My nickname on the team is ‘dad’. … It’s kind of funny to be playing with a bunch of 18-, 19-year-olds, kids, but it’s so fun.”

With just one batter hitting over .300, the Titans have leaned heavily on a pitching staff stocked with talented arms. Lane owns a 2.56 team ERA, good for second in the NWAC, and has struck out 100 more batters than it has walked.

During its slow start, Lane lost eight games by two runs or less. They are now hitting over .260 as a team on the year, and those one-run losses have started to turn into wins as they get the big plays they need.

“I would say the difference,” Lane coach Josh Blunt said, “is that we started to figure out that we need to do some of the small things to win 2-1, rather than lose 1-0. Just get the bunt down, getting the runner over. … Executing when we have opportunities.”

Casarez hasn’t been the only local small-school product to help the Titans. Former Monroe standout Austin Crowson is one of Lane’s top starting pitchers. Crowson owns a 1.95 ERA in league play, and his 44 strikeouts are the fifth-most in the NWAC. During his sophomore campaign, he has upped his fastball velocity to the low 90s.

“I feel a lot more confident,” said Crowson, who has signed to play for University of Nevada next season. “It’s just a little bit different here. … Every team has guys one to nine who can hit the ball, and I’ve just gotten used to it.”

The Titans will face either Treasure Valley or Pierce Community College at noon Saturday in their regional opener. Should they win, they will play again on Sunday with a chance to advance to the NWAC tournament.