By NR Staff • 

Oregon Mainline Paving nears end of league games

McMinnville was scheduled to play a doubleheader last Wednesday vs. Central Catholic, one of the games being a league contest that would count toward playoff seeding. McMinnville coach Darren Bland got a call the day of the games from the Central Catholic coach, though, saying the Rams were backing out because they didn’t have enough players. The forfeit gives Oregon Mainline Paving a critical win that keeps it in position to either finish first or second should it win out.

McMinnville is 3-1 with two league games remaining: one vs. Aloha at home Wednesday then at home vs. Newberg this weekend in its home tournament.

For OMP, finishing in the top two instead of lower means an automatic berth to the OIBA state tournament in a couple of weeks. The top two teams from each league in the OIBA play a best-of-three series for seeding at the state tournament, but both are already in. Seeds three through six have to play three-game elimination series.

Bland said the plan is clear: Finish top two and seek out the top teams.

“If we finish second we get to go play someone else’s No. 1,” he said. “That’s a lot better competition for us.”

Unlike the spring baseball season when teams typically try to play into matchups that favor themselves, in the summer it’s about making it as hard as possible to build the experience and confidence. Oregon Mainline Paving did that at the Nero Wood Bat Tournament in Hillsboro last week, playing eight games in five days and winning the consolation bracket with a 5-3 record. Mac lost two games to an 18U team from Canada and one other to a legion team from Washington that combined some of the best players from its areas.

“Those three losses were vs. quality teams,” he said.

Prior to the tournament, Bland said he hoped to use the wood bats to OMP’s advantage. He wanted his players to work on areas of the game like bunting and base running that become key focus points when playing with wood bats. He said whenever Mac had a base runner, players were bunting, and Mac did more than a few safety squeezes with a runner on third base.

“We small-balled people to death,” he said.

The Nero Tournament was Mac’s latest testing ground in a season full of them. Every coach goes into a summer season with a list of things to work on with his team, and Bland was no different. A major focal point this summer season for OMP has been base running. Bland said at the start a lot of players were station-to-station base runners and not too aggressive.

Now 28 games into the summer season, Bland said he thinks OMP has evolved. Mac has 80 stolen bases (2.86 per game) this summer.

“Now we have convinced them that it’s a given you’re going to get to second on a quality bunt,” Bland said. “Now they’re not standing on the base. Now they’re thinking, ‘hey, can I get third?’

“We’re putting a lot of pressure on teams.”

With more important games coming up on the schedule for OMP and the playoffs looming, Bland said what he would like to see is the same consistent play.

“Hopefully as we get up against better teams we can continue to do some of those things,” he said.

Notes: OMP was scheduled to play a doubleheader Monday at Glencoe. … Its doubleheader with Aloha is scheduled for 5 p.m. Wednesday at Patton.

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