Mainline Paving's season crashes to a halt
Oregon Mainline Paving — winner of two bottom-of-the-seventh walkoffs earlier in the tournament — was the recipient of an unusual game-winner Friday when third baseman Adrian Uscanga’s throw sailed into right field while trying to turn a double play, allowing Oregon City to score the winning run.
McMinnville (29-16) needed to win two games Friday just to stay alive in the tournament, but it lost two games in a row after being sent to the elimination bracket with a 3-1 loss Thursday vs. Clackamas. Friday, OMP got the start and pitching it needed, but Oregon City was able to do just enough.
“They got one we got none,” OMP coach Darren Bland said. “We didn’t put hits together in one inning and they did. That’s the difference.”
McMinnville took a 1-0 lead in the top of the third inning. Zach Rhoads was hit by a pitch with one out and reached second base on a ground out by David Brosius. Cameron Fox and Uscanga were walked to load the bases, and Kade Mechals drew a walk to score Rhoads. Mac didn’t get the big hit it was looking for, though, and Gage Gubrud ended the inning with a ground out to the shortstop.
The score remained 1-0 until the top of the sixth inning, when Mac tacked on one more run. Drew Spence walked, and Jacob Bannister sacrificed pinch runner Kyler Dickey to second base with a bunt. Brosius delivered an RBI single to right field to score Dickey from second.
Things started to unravel for OMP in the bottom of the sixth. Oregon City’s leadoff batter singled, but Brosius committed an error in right field that allowed him to reach second base. The Pioneers followed up with an RBI single, and after a sacrifice bunt, another RBI single tied the game at two.
Mac went down in order in the top of the seventh inning. In the bottom half, starting pitcher Kade Mechals walked the leadoff batter. A sacrifice bunt moved him to second, and Mechals walked the next batter. With two on and one out, Mac got the ground ball it was looking for. Uscanga fielded it cleanly at third, threw the ball down to second base, but the ball sailed high into right field, allowing the runner going from second to third to continue on to home and win the game.
“I thought we had it won,” Gubrud said. “We had everything going.”
“In that last inning we didn’t make plays,” Bland said before correcting himself. “We didn’t make a play.”
Mechals took the loss despite hold Oregon City scoreless for more than five innings. He allowed three runs (one earned) in 6 1/3 innings pitched. He walked three batters and struck out five.
“(Kade) did a great job on the mound,” Bland said. “Our pitching is not our issue at all. We have four solid guys.”
Bland elaborated. In four games at the state tournament, OMP scored 12 runs.
“Averaging three runs a game?” Bland said. “That’s tough on pitching.”
Finding consistent hitting has been a theme for McMinnville baseball the past few years, and as Mac enters yet another offseason, discovering where offense will come from next spring will yet again be an issue. Bland said he talked about this with his players in the postgame talk.
“There’s not a lot of error when we’re scoring three runs a game,” Bland said. “When they’re going into their offseason workouts and next preseason, all the focus needs to be on the little things.”
Bland has done what he can to get players at bats. Mainline Paving played 45 games this summer, and seven players had more than 100 plate appearances and another six had more than 65 plate appearances. McMinnville batted .287 this summer and had an on-base percentage of .416. It also stole 111 bases. There are a lot of positives Bland can take.
“You have a good jumpstart on that,” he said, “and we have played pressure situations.”
Still, when Mac begins practice for the 2014 spring high school season next February, you can bet Bland will use the way OMP ended its summer as a teaching moment.
“When we’re doing ground balls and double plays and it’s raining and it’s February 28,” he said, “you still have to take it seriously.”
Gage Gubrud has had a busy summer. So you can excuse the incoming McMinnville senior when one of the words he used to describe the sudden end to the summer baseball season was, “relief.”
He quickly followed that with an explanation that he really didn’t want to the baseball season to end so abruptly, with just one more day of the tournament left anyway, but still, Gubrud has had his plate full.
Gubrud was the starting quarterback last year for the McMinnville football team, and he has faithfully gone through summer workouts with new coach Robin Hill, trying to learn the playbook and get in some reps with his receivers. Add in a month or so of summer league basketball in June and early July, and there were some weeks where he said his mom had to help remind him what sport he was doing that day.
“July, I’ll tell you what,” he said. “I was going to football in the mornings, a baseball doubleheader at night and then basketball the next morning. It was a bit overwhelming, but it was still a lot of fun.”
This is the OSAA’s moratorium week, meaning there can be no contact between school officials (coaches, administrators, etc.) and players, so Gubrud and his fellow Grizzlies will get a week’s reprieve, but starting Aug. 5 he will be hard at work prepping for the upcoming football season. He said football has dominated his thoughts for a while now.
“I’ve been thinking about it for a while,” he said. “I’m really excited. For me, it’s my number one sport. We have a lot of good guys coming back and have been having good turnouts in the weight room.
Hill’s hiring turned some heads in high school football circles in Oregon, and he brings his tried-and-true wing-T offense. Hill spent more than two decades coaching it at Sprague High School where he won a state championship in 2004. Gubrud said the version Mac will run this year has been easy for him to learn, and he looks forward to playing.
“Coach Hill is just an overall great guy,” Gubrud said of his new coach. “He’s a great coach and makes it really fun to be around. Our whole team has really enjoyed him so far.”