By Robert Husseman • Sports Editor • 

Grizz cutting their teeth

McMinnville’s Oregon Independent Baseball Association team has a new sponsor – welcome to the forefront, Hyder Family Dental – and a new outlook.

The Oregon Mainline Paving Grizzlies had a winning campaign against OIBA competition in 2013, and Mac High rising senior Adrian Uscanga credited the summer ball workouts toward what the McMinnville varsity team just accomplished – a 21-9 season in 2014, a second-place finish in the Class 6A Pacific Conference and an appearance in the OSAA Class 6A state quarterfinals.

“Last year we just had all our guys,” Uscanga said. “Going from the summer to the spring (we had) all that chemistry.

“This summer we’ve got our entire outfield out, almost all our infield gone. It’s kind of weird.”

Hyder Family Dental is not your varsity team, though seven of the 13 Grizzlies did play in at least one game with the McMinnville varsity. It could be the varsity team of the near future, of 2015.

That is not easy to project this summer, but for the players who spent the bulk of their time in the junior-varsity ranks, it’s something to strive for.

“We gave them two main goals, and that was, number one, to have fun, and number two, to improve,” Hyder Family Dental coach Jordan Harlow said. “You do those two things and you’re going to play the game the right way. It’s a chain reaction. If we can improve a little bit, then we’ll start having a little fun.”

Uscanga, the Grizzlies’ third baseman this spring, and rising seniors Kyle Casey and Riley McAnally are the only Hyder players with regular varsity experience. (Rising senior David Brosius is on “injured reserve” due to arm soreness; Brosius pitched and played right field for Mac High in the spring.) Rising seniors Lane Hessel and Jacob Fong each saw time with the varsity squad in 2014; rising sophomore Wyatt Smith swung between levels but finished the season as a varsity pitcher.

Rising senior Walter Stahl and rising juniors Geovanni Esparza, Kadin Wilson, Garrett Scales, Josh Irving and Jesse Ehrhart round out the Hyder roster.

“We knew we were going to lose some guys to other clubs, but that’s the beauty of McMinnville baseball, is, hey, be ready when your time comes,” Harlow said. “That’s only going to help our program, and it gives our coaches a chance to work with the young guys.

“These guys play the game hard. They’re smart. It just comes down to experience and seeing more time.”

Acclimation toward each other – an intangible but necessary part of baseball – has not come smoothly, but players and coaches report increasing comfort with one another.

“I’ve been playing with most of these guys for a couple of years,” Uscanga said. “We’re all pretty friendly.”

And, of course, there are games to be played – at which the Grizzlies have been successful. Hyder Family Dental rallied to force extra innings against Forest Grove but ultimately succumbed to the Vikings, 5-3, in 8 innings Wednesday night at the McMinnville baseball field at Patton Middle School.

Smith and Hessel knocked RBI singles for Hyder in the first and second innings, respectively. Forest Grove tied the game in the third inning and hit Smith, the Grizzlies’ starting pitcher, with an RBI groundout in the fifth inning to take a 3-2 lead.

Hessel walked to open the bottom of the seventh inning, and two batters later Uscanga ripped an RBI triple down the left-field line. The Vikings walked Fong and Smith intentionally to load the bases. Casey flew out to Forest Grove’s Marcus Estrada in left field, and Estrada gunned down Uscanga as the Grizzly tried to score the winning run.

Forest Grove loaded the bases against Fong in the eighth inning, and Fong walked Keigan Presenti to bring home Ken Balsiger. The Vikings would score one more run before McAnally quashed the rally.

Stahl led off the eighth inning with a pinch-hit single, but the Grizzlies went down in order to end the game and bring their record to 2-2.

“The first four games, I’m pleased,” Harlow said. “The one thing I do like is, effort-wise, it’s not an effort thing. It’s getting more playing time, getting back in the groove of things.”

Hyder Family Dental hosts Aloha in a doubleheader Monday, beginning at 5 p.m., at the McMinnville baseball field. The Grizzlies play at Lakeridge Wednesday at 6 p.m.


North Salem 6, Hyder Family Dental 0

Vikings pitcher Cameron Jolly pitched a complete-game four-hitter and North Salem scored six runs in the fourth inning to defeat the Grizzlies Monday night at the McMinnville baseball field at Patton Middle School.

Kyle Casey, Wyatt Smith, Walter Stahl and Adrian Uscanga each had hits for the Grizzlies.

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