Bellingham senior Oscar White's impact on the Red Raiders' baseball club was as immediate as anyone could imagine.
The moment has been engraved in White's memory since his freshman year.
"I remember it like yesterday," he said.
Three years ago White made his first Bellingham plate appearance. He was a freshman. His brother, Dakota White, was a senior, and it was senior night. The Red Raiders were playing Nooksack Valley and Dakota waited at second base as Oscar stepped to the plate.
"I was standing out there shaking in my boots," Oscar recalled. "On the first pitch, the pitcher left a high fastball over the plate, and it seemed like a pop up, but it kept going and went over the fence. ... I was nervous, but I kind of wiped my nerves away then."
Oscar has been a fixture in the Red Raiders' baseball program ever since, and he's been along for the ride while Bellingham has transformed into a yearly postseason contender.
Oscar, who starts in right field, has always swung a good bat, but Bellingham coach David Farrell said his senior's most drastic growth came between his sophomore and junior year.
He was expected to be a key run producer heading into last year, but Oscar endured some struggles once slotted in Bellingham's batting order at the No. 3 or 4 hole.
"He struggled early in the season, but he made a commitment to start driving the ball to the opposite-field gap," Farrell said. "It was a big step for him in his growth in baseball to make the adjustment early on."
And when Oscar is at his best, Farrell said he can be "scary good."
Oscar's junior numbers back up Farrell's words. He hit for a .418 average (23 for 55), recorded six doubles and a team-best three home runs. He had 20 RBI and scored 23 times and was selected first team All-Northwest Conference and second-team all-state.
While Oscar may be more known for his plate work, he's also a reliable outfielder with a strong arm.
Oscar has improved each year, Farrell said, and Bellingham is looking to its Bellevue College signee to be a major piece of what the Red Raiders hope is a successful spring.
Oscar's first year seeing varsity innings was also Farrell's first season as head coach, and the Red Raiders' program has blossomed since.
In Farrell's and Oscar's first season, Bellingham posted a 12-9 season and qualified for the district tournament after going 5-15 the previous season. The Red Raiders went 15-7 and advanced to state in 2012 and last year finished 13-8 while earning a district berth.
Oscar credited the coaching staff's fresh take on the game for Bellingham's improvement.
"I think the coaching staff has played the largest role since my freshman year," he said. "The things we are focusing on at practice and during games is just the mentality part of the game. I think the team has really expanded mentally and is just being smart about the game and being smart about yourself, erasing the bad things."
That way of thinking has certainly benefitted Oscar.
Instead of always seeking out the big hit, Oscar has embraced line drive and situational hitting.
"He's made an impact since he first came here," Farrell said of Oscar. "He has meant a lot to us for four years and three as a starter."
This spring Oscar's been asked to take on a leadership role, and Farrell said his senior's done a great job.
"We don't expect him to have all the words of wisdom and do the rah, rah, rah type of thing," Farrell said, "but we want our seniors to lead by example. We want them to be the first in line and be out in front when we're running. He's done every one of those things."
Oscar admitted every season the goal is to qualify for postseason, reach the state tournament and ultimately win a state title, but he said the Red Raiders aren't looking past one game or one practice at a time.
Reach Andrew Lang at 360-756-2862 or email@example.com . Follow @bhamsports on Twitter for Whatcom County sports updates.