Baseball — St. Paul wins three of its last four games to build momentum toward next spring

ST. PAUL — Coming off a frustrating high school season in which St. Paul’s young roster struggled to a 5-18 overall record and an eighth place finish (4-16) in 1A/2A Special District 2, the Bucks were hoping to gain some valuable experience and build momentum for the 2015 season with summer ball.

St. Paul came through on both fronts, as its younger players saw lots of time on the field and in the batter’s box while compiling a 10-5 record this summer. by: SETH GORDON - Up and over - St. Paul first baseman Jackson O'Connor rises above the fence to snag a foul ball July 14.

The Bucks capped their run by winning three of their last four games, beginning with a thrilling 11-10 win over Tigard July 8 and ending with a three-game set at Neah-Kah-Nie over the weekend.

“Having the beat-down season that we had in the spring, it puts a lot of positive feelings back into looking forward to coming out next spring, for me and the players,” said coach Julio Vela.

St. Paul fell 6-2 to the same Tigard team July 8, so the Bucks were ready to prove themselves when they hosted the rematch July 15.

Vela joked that his team “came from ahead” to win, having taken an 8-3 lead into the fifth inning, only to fall behind 10-8 and then charge back for the win with three runs in the bottom seventh.

Most of the damage was done in the fifth, when the Tigers scored six runs, but learning to stay calm and never give up in a pressure situation like St. Paul did in the bottom of the seventh is exactly the kind of experience Vela was hoping to give his younger players this summer.

Tyler Smith started the rally with a one-out double and Zach Tegland followed with a single, after which things took a strange turn. Tigard proceeded to walk the next three batters, scoring two runs and tying the game at 10-10.

After surrendering a strikeout for the second out of the frame, Maverick Martinez was walked on four straight pitches to end the game.

Afterwards, Vela asked both Martinez and Justin Herberger, an eighth-grade student called up despite the fact he won’t play high school ball until the 2016 season, if they were nervous at the plate in the seventh.

Both answered that they were, which Vela was happy to hear not only because they came through, but because now they know what being in that situation feels like.

“That’s exactly what we’re trying to do with summer ball, is get them in these situations that have value down the road for high school ball,” Vela said. “(Martinez) isn’t one of those guys who has seen a lot of reps for the past two seasons. I think we get nothing but benefit out of games like that.”

Vela added it was a good feeling to turn the tables on a good opponent and that the Bucks carried that feeling over to the weekend, which was also an opportunity to do some bonding as the team traveled to play Neah-Kah-Nie Friday, then stayed over together in the high school before playing two games on Saturday.

“I think it was good that some of these guys get to know each other, they were hanging out and talking, especially the younger guys that are coming up next year,” he said. “Now it’s not just somebody they’ve seen in the hallways, it’s somebody that they’ve played a season with basically.”

The Bucks pounded the Pirates 25-9 Friday, then turned around and beat them again 14-1 in five innings in the first game Saturday. Jared Saenz impressed in the doubleheader, going a combined 4-for-5 with two doubles and six RBI in the two games, as did Herberger, who went 5-for-9 with nine RBI.

Chance Kirk picked up the win Friday with two innings of work on the mound, with Tegland and Herberger also pitching. Cody Faber allowed one run in four innings to earn the decision Saturday.

St. Paul ran into a solid Warrenton team, which plays in 3A, and even lead the Warriors 5-3 through three innings. Warrenton cut loose for five runs of Faber in the fourth inning to pull ahead 8-5 and this time St. Paul was unable to rally as neither team scored in the final three innings.

The loss, however, was not enough to dampen the team’s spirits.

“You just have to kind of carry it with you,” Vela said of the momentum built up this summer. “Yeah, we ended up dropping that one to Warrenton, but it was competitive. Really, it was just a positive way to end the season winning three out of four.”

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