Willamina baseball trying to find a rhythm in early going
Most notably, Willamina (1-5) is without its senior leader and its offensive and defensive spark, Tyson Jahn. Bulldogs’ coach Cliff Toney said Jahn is not with the team for academic reasons, and Toney said it’s uncertain when Jahn will return.
Clatskanie (6-4) scored 17 runs on 10 hits off Bulldogs’ pitchers Nolan Smith, Dylan Blakely, Nathan Johnson, and Brodey Bruckner. The Tigers scored six of those runs on errors, walks and hit batters.
Toney said it wasn’t the hits that where frustrating, it was the seven walks the pitching staff combined to give up.
“We liked to walk them apparently,” a frustrated Toney said after the game. “I lost track after a while of the walks and hit batters today. We’re battling through some youth, and some players that just don’t know the game.”
Smith, a senior for Willamina started on the mound, and after a 20-minute first inning, Clatskanie had nine runs on two hits, four walks, two errors and three hit batters. Smith gave up five runs and was replaced by Blakely after the Tigers’ eighth hitter reached the plate. Blakely allowed four more runs before getting the third out
Blakely had a better second inning facing seven hitters and giving up one run. Willamina trailed 10-0 after two innings.
Toney said though Bruckner gave up three runs, he was the only bright spot defensively for the Bulldogs.
“I thought Brodey did good for us, given the spot he was in,” Toney said. “He came in down 11-0, and that can be a lot of pressure for a kid to handle but he did well.”
Bruckner, a freshman, got the ball from Toney to start the fourth, and gave up six runs on two hits. He walked two and struck out two.
Jahn was badly missed in center field for the Bulldogs. Freshman Tyson Healon started in his place. Healon committed three errors on three routine fly balls that resulted in four runs. Healon responded by making three catches, including the final Clatskanie out in the fifth.
Toney said Jahn’s absence has been difficult on the team because freshman have had to start when they haven’t been ready to step into a starting position. In addition, Toney said Willamina had seven seniors from its 2012 playoff-caliber team graduate, and that’s created a gap in players willing to take on leadership roles.
“We’re really young,” Toney said. “With six freshmen, and just a handful of upperclassmen, it’s hard to give the young guys that experience. We’re hoping Tyson will be back in the next week, I don’t think Brandon (Hubbel) will play at all this year.”
Toney admitted while Jahn is potentially close to returning, he can’t rely on that, and said he has to find other ways to get wins.
The other bright spot for the Bulldogs was Edwin Villalobos. Villalobos accounted for two of the Bulldogs’ three hits, and he reached base three times. He reached base to lead off Willamina’s first inning on a throwing error to first.
Villalobos gave the Bulldogs their first hit of the game in the third inning, a double to left-center.
“They were just good balls to hit,” Villalobos said. “I just sat back and them come in, and just swung away.”
Villalobos’ second hit came in the bottom of the fifth, a single to center. Fellow senior Trevor Hunt followed Villalobos with Willamina’s third hit of the day.
Villalobos said as one of a few seniors on the team, he should start to take more a vocal role with the team instead of the quiet leader approach.
“I need to start taking charge, we have a lot of young guys,” Villalobos said. “This is kind of a half and half team, but it’s time to start going in the direction we want to go.”
Toney said the team would practice hitting Wednesday instead of getting the day off.
The Bulldogs don’t have much time to rebound from the loss. They play at 5 p.m. today vs. Sheridan. The Spartans are also struggling. While Willamina has lost four straight games, Sheridan’s lost seven straight.
Toney said he needs to see more commitment and dedication fast, otherwise, it could be a very disappointing season for the Bulldogs.
“We’re a better team than this,” Tomey said. “I don’t know what’s going on. Guys aren’t doing the little things, and we have to. We have to keep going and keep working.”