Getting three or four hits in a baseball game is a pretty good day.
Brandon Casteel stepped up to the plate eight times and got seven hits for Washougal during a doubleheader against Hockinson on April 21.
As the lead-off batter, the sophomore laced four doubles and three singles, and scored four runs. And in the other at-bat, he was intentionally walked.
“It’s the first time I’ve ever been able to hit that consistently.” Casteel said. “My teammates were eating it up. Even the other team was congratulating me. It made my day.”
Having a 7-for-7 doubleheader is the kind of day a baseball player dreams about. Casteel rested easy that night.
“I was too tired from catching both games,” he said. “I went home and fell asleep.”
The only thing that would have made the day more perfect is if Washougal would have won. The Panthers were so close to that first victory, but they lost both games by one run.
“That’s a team that beat us 16-1 earlier. You could see the progression and the leaps these kids have made,” said head coach Greg Lewis. “For what we have gone through this year, I credit these kids for not quitting.”
When the season started, Washougal did not have enough players to fill a varsity and junior varsity team. A few Panthers were playing for both teams, but that became tougher to manage once the league schedule kicked in. So the junior varsity season was cancelled. Lewis left it up to the players to stick around.
“That’s a tough thing to do when you’re trying to build a program,” he said. “But the kids are making the commitment, and I can’t thank them enough for that. The freshmen and sophomores are getting a lot of playing time at the varsity level, and that’s only going to help them in the future.
“We’re taking our lumps,” Lewis added. “I tell the kids that it’s a process. It’s not about wins and losses right now. We just have to keep building and try to get better every day.”
Casteel has the tenacity to be a leader for Washougal. Throughout the school year, he’s either on the football field, the wrestling mat or the baseball diamond.
“It makes me feel happy, like I’m doing something for my community,” Casteel said.
“He’s the type of kid who will run through a brick wall for you,” Lewis said. “I tell the kids to be aggressive at the plate, but then they get scared. Brandon has the tools and he has the mentality. He just attacks the baseball.”
Casteel also understands the game, and how it can be humbling. The day after going 7-for-7, he went 0-for-3. Casteel said “that’s baseball.” He loves the challenge.
“You have to eat, drink and sleep baseball in order to be a good player,” Casteel said.
And he’s hungry and thirsty for more.
“You can never get too much of baseball,” he added. “It’s something you can enjoy for a long time as a player, coach or a fan.”
The Panthers play a doubleheader at Ridgefield Wednesday. First pitch is at 3 p.m. Washougal hosts La Center Friday in the final game of the season. It starts at 3:30 p.m.
Casteel looks to put the finishing touches on a fine season. He has 18 hits in 38 at-bats for a .474 average.
“I don’t feel like I should be manhandled by the pitchers,” Casteel said. “If anything, I should be able to hit all they have. That’s just how I see it.”