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Southridge suffers late-inning OIBA blues

This gloomy late-game feeling is starting to get old for the Southridge baseball team.

Up 2-0 in the top of the seventh inning and just an out away from taking down Tualatin the Skyhawks committed two costly errors, one on a routine play in the infield that allowed the tying and go-ahead runs to cross.

Armed with a 3-2 lead the Timberwolves kept the Skyhawks scoreless in the bottom of the stanza, sending Southridge home with their second straight heartbreaking OIBA loss.

“It was one of those games where you have a few mental lapses and they capitalized,” said senior shortstop Alex Beekman. “We played pretty well...it’s not like we played a terrible game. It was a hard-fought game, a fun one to play in, just horrible to lose.”

For six and two-thirds innings, Southridge’s defense was outstanding, helping their starting pitcher Bryce Roesch throughout the contest. by: TIMES PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - Southridge shorstop Alex Beekman turns a double play in the fourth inning of the Skyhawks loss on Monday.

Yet, in a way that conjured up memories of Southridge’s 5-4 loss to Clackamas in the 6A state semis, the Skyhawks lost concentration in the field for just a bit and it cost them.

The final out of a ballgame is always tough to get, especially when the game’s close. Southridge is learning how to win the tight ball games now so they can win the big, important ones in the spring.

“We’ve played good baseball but we just can’t seem to finish games out. We can’t get that last out,” said third baseman Parker Stidham. “People start get lazy and think ‘ok the game’s already won so might as well check out’. We just need to stay focused. From the first pitch to the last pitch everybody has to keep their head on the field. We didn’t have that today.”

Southridge got on the board first in the fourth when David Knudsen ran out an infield single and Stidham singled to left with one out. Phil Thoma followed but putting the bat on the ball, hustling down the first base line and beating out Tualatin’s throw to first. Knudsen was running on contact and scored standing up to go up 1-0.

The Skyhawks scored again in the sixth when Beekman blooped a single to center, stole second and later scored on a Tualatin balk.

Roesch said he was wild at times, walking five and hitting three batters. However, whenever Tualatin got a man on base, the righty was able to come back with strikes versus next batter and prevented runners from getting in scoring position. Knowing his defense was ready and willing to reinforce his cause, Roesch pitched to contact and allowed the Skyhawks to stay active behind him.

“I don’t throw necessarily that hard, I don’t have a knee buckling curveball or change-up so I try to get ground balls, pop-ups,” said Roesch. “I like to get outs as quick as possible and get us back to the bats.”by: TIMES PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - Southridge third baseman Parker Stidham said the Skyhawks are learning how to finish close games this summer.

The junior generated easy ground balls and undemanding fly balls for the Skyhawk defense who helped their pitcher out by turning three double plays. With a runner on first base in the third inning, Stidham snagged a line drive at third and fired back across the diamond for the twin killing. In the second Beekman flipped an unassisted double play himself, saving a ball from going back up the middle, tagging second base and flicking the ball to first for two.

“A pitcher’s best friend is the double play, especially when you can’t find the strike zone,” said Roesch. “I struggled every inning, I think I had at least one guy on every inning and so it was nice having great outfielders making long runs to catch fly balls and getting ground balls for Beekman and Sam (Rzpecki) to make plays on.”

Roesch said away from the diamond, the Skyhawks are all great friends who can pull each other’s chains and don’t take things too seriously. The team cohesion is united throughout the squad but Roesch said sometimes Southridge loses focus and that carries over to the field. That’s when the back-breaking errors occur and losses appear.

Beekman pointed to the Skyhawks’ slow start to the spring (during which Southridge lost five games by one run) as indicator of how this summer’s team can turn it around. Southridge started the preseason 3-7 but finished with a late-season flurry for the ages that took them to the 6A state semi-finals. Beekman hopes history repeats itself as the OIBA season winds down and the Skyhawks set their sights on the late July summer-ending tournament.

“You just have to work out the kinks,” said Beekman. “We have to get together as a team and focus on closing out games which is pretty important. It is summer ball, we’re kind of working through things. It’s not all about the winning aspect of summer ball. It’s really honing in on your skills and focusing on what you can better at.”

Jacob Calo and Huntley Sims have impressed both Roesch and Stidham with their ability to hit the ball consistently.

“They both totally rake,” said Roesch. “They’re both all-around great players. They’re fast, play great defense, they do it all.”

Stidham would like to see the entire team follow Calo and Sims’ approach at the plate. For instance, in the bottom of the seventh Southridge stranded Phil Thoma at second base after the senior led off the inning with a single and stole second.

“If we could swing it more and come up clutch in situations like we had and get the job done that’d help,” said Stidham. “Coach calls it doing ‘the little things’, laying a bunt down, moving runners, getting the job done. That’s what summer’s all about, to get for the spring season.”

Stidham has taken Reza Aleaziz’s spot as the Skyhawks’ ace and “Tuesday starter” on the mound. Coming off a second-team all-Metro season and a confidence building 6A playoff win over North Medford that kept Southridge’s season alive, Stidham’s role is expanding this summer. He’s viewed as the workhorse, the guy head coach Joe Monahan can look to for offensive output from the cleanup spot, positive pitching when he’s on the hill and dominant defense at third base. There’s a lot on Stidham’s plate as the rising junior steps to the forefront and takes the task of keeping Southridge near the top of the Metro.

“It’s just a whole another perspective to the ball game,” said Stidham. “I have to shoulder the load a little bit more. You have to show up and definitely be there every single game not so much physically but mentally be there and get the job done.”



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