A wet win for Mac finishes 2-1 week
McMinnville was scheduled to play at 5 p.m. today at Forest Grove. It plays at 5 p.m. Wednesday at Tigard.
The buckets of the water-absorbing granules help dry wet baseballs so they can be reused, while the infield conditioner is mixed with the dirt on the mound after the game to prepare it for the next game of hard use. Unfortunately for McMinnville senior Blake Egli who pitched six innings of shutout baseball to earn the win, the dirt mound wasn’t treated until after the game was over. By then it had been raining nonstop for close to three hours, a steady rain with a wind blowing in from left field.
“The mound was bad,” Egli said. “Felt like I was wearing high heels at one point. … My footing was uneven.”
To which McMinnville coach Darren Bland deadpanned, “(Blake) might wear high heels in his free time so he might be used to that.”
Egli’s performance vs. the Vikings was still pretty good for someone wearing high heels in the mud. He struck out four batters and generally stymied Forest Grove with a variety of well-located pitches.
During warm-ups, Bland said he talked to his players about dealing with the weather by not letting it become the overriding thing they think about. It is Oregon in April, after all. It generally rains.
“We play a lot of games in cruddy weather,” Bland said. “That North Eugene game (on March 19) was terrible weather, and I told them, we’re going to play some league games in this so you better get used to it.”
It seemed like the Grizzlies (6-6, 2-1) were more than used to the weather. After Egli pitched a perfect top of the first inning, Mac scored one run after loading the bases. Christian Radke was hit by a pitch, scoring Adrian Uscanga.
The Grizzlies scored two more runs in the bottom of the second inning and two in the bottom of the third inning to take a 5-0 lead. After a scoreless fourth inning, Mac scored three in the fifth and two in the sixth inning for the final 10-0 count.
The Grizzlies had 12 hits in the game, but what stood out were the runs they scored without a batter putting the ball in play. There was Radke’s hit-by-pitch RBI in the first, and three different times that Mac scored runs on variations of the delayed steal.
“We were trying to put them in difficult positions,” Bland said.
The Grizzlies had runners on first and third with two outs in the bottom of the second inning when Bland put the delayed steal on. Gage Gubrud broke late for second base, forcing Forest Grove’s catcher to decide to let Gubrud take the base uncontested or attempt a throw down. In the meantime, Uscanga crept off of third base, waiting for the catcher to decide. When the catcher threw two second base, Uscanga was already sprinting home. Gubrud was safe at second, and the inning continued.
The idea is the runner at first sacrifices himself on the base paths long enough for the runner from third to score, and the Grizzlies worked this same runners-on-first-and-third scenario two more times in the game to perfection. The intricacies of such base running ploys are meant to make opponents uncomfortable. Because the Grizzlies aren’t an elite offensive team, these small-ball tactics are a regular part of the repertoire.
“We’re definitely going to give up an out for a run if we can score,” Bland said. “Don’t do too much, just do a little bit and do your job.”
Sophomore David Brosius was 3-for-3 Friday with two RBIs and a run scored for McMinnville. Gubrud also had three hits in the game with two RBIs, raising his season batting average to .289.
Garret Adams was 2-for-3 with a run scored. Uscanga was 1-for-3 and scored three times.
The Grizzlies were scheduled to finish out their two-game series with Forest Grove on Monday. Then they play another two-game series starting Wednesday with Tigard. The Tigers are 7-5 and 1-2 in the Pacific Conference standings.
Bland said the overall goal of the Grizzlies is to just win the majority of the games each week. They don’t have to win every game, but if they win each series, they’ll be at or near the top at the end of the season. Two years ago, the Grizzlies followed that strategy to a co-conference championship and a state quarterfinals appearance.
“We’re just trying to set ourselves up to win two out of three every week,” Bland said. “If we do that, we’ll be right there.”
Notes: Nick Springer, Ryan Dix and Kyle Dickey also had hits for Mac. ... Dickey hit an RBI double in the bottom of the sixth inning. ... Calvin Lane pitched the top of the seventh for Mac. He walked one batter and struck out one and didn’t allow a hit.