Senior goes the distance against Newberg

Good things happen when baseball teams ratchet up the pressure on the opposing team by putting the bat on the ball.

Great occurrences pass if the squad's starting pitcher can steadily throw strikes and his defense makes plays behind him.

On Friday against Newberg, Southridge (Dr. Barney's) received a bunch of both which resulted in a 9-3 win and a berth in the OIBA state tournament this week at Oregon City High School and Tigard High. by: TIMES PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - Southridge starting pitcher Brannon Raines threw a complete game gem against Newberg on Friday.

Senior starting pitcher Brannon Raines was superb, throwing a complete game shutout for the Skyhawks, striking out seven while allowing five hits and walking four. And, his offense came up big as well scoring five runs in the fourth inning to break a 3-3 tie. Southridge built an early 3-0 lead thanks to a Parker Stidham RBI single, an infield single by Alex Beekman and a sac fly from Sam Rzpecki.

“When our pitchers throw strikes we play a lot better because it's a quick game, we stay into it,” said outfielder David Knudsen. “Then we can up to the plate and hit, which we did today.”

Raines said he was having trouble locating his fastball earlier in the game, but recovered it with more repetition later on in the contest. Newberg took advantage of a Southridge error and a misplay in the third to tie the game at three apiece but Raines never lost his wits. From the fourth to the sixth inning Raines tamed eight straight Tigers, finding a groove and drubbing the strike zone with fastballs that picked up speed in the sixth and seventh stanzas.

“I couldn't really find my fastball but my four-seam (fastball) and two seam were moving pretty well and that helped me get through it,” said Raines. “I had to settle down, focus, forget about the errors and keep the ball low. They were hitting it when it was a little higher so I knew if I kept the ball down, good things were going to happen.”

Senior second baseman Austin Miles said he and his Skyhawk counterparts searched for the first strike they could find went after it. As the ninth place hitter, the second baseman helped flip the bottom of lineup by getting on base three times. Miles' second knock of the day was his biggest, doubling to the fence with the hit-and-run on that moved Rzpecki to third base. Raines singled in Rzpecki to go up 5-3 and Knudsen's shot-to-the-heart double with the bags full of Skyhawks extended the advantage to 8-3. in the fourth. Miles was also hit by a pitch and singled in the second inning.

“I had to get on base, help my team out and I did,” said Miles. “It's extremely important for me to do my part and get the top of the lineup back going. That was all I was thinking about today.”

Knudsen's key bases-loaded double was his second extra-base hit of the game. In the third, with the scored tied at 3-3, the senior tripled and later scored the go-ahead run on Parker Stidham's RBI groundout. Rzpecki drove in Knudsen in the first with a sac fly.

“I was seeing the ball real well,” said Knudsen. “I could see when he was throwing his sliders, fastballs so I was jumping on that whenever I could. I was able to pick up the slider early and drive it wherever I wanted.” by: TIMES PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - Southridge shortstop Alex Beekman makes an off-balance throw to first for an out.

Southridge hustled from station to station, took the extra bag when it was available and played with a little urgency that'll be needed in the OIBA tournament.

“For us, it's getting guys on base because if we get them on, we'll get the hits,” said Knudsen. “If we get our hits going then we can keep it rolling instead of trying to get hits from nothing. When we're up in games like this we get a lot more confident on the base paths, trying to push it, get more bases. We're always picking up coach rounding the bags, paying attention to what he's seeing.”

Knudsen's bags-clearing gapper alleviated Raines' worries on the mound. The righty didn't have to be perfect, which sequentially helped him pitch more powerfully.

“Before that I was like 'I really have to keep it down, just do my job',” said Raines. “But after David's double, everything felt good. I knew a little error wouldn't hurt me as much so I felt more confident, more comfortable and that just helped me a lot. It felt good.”

Knudsen thinks Southridge will have a big say in who wins the OIBA championship this weekend. The Skyhawks are gaining team at the right time and seemed to perk up against the Tigers with playoff repercussions at risk. Every extra playoff they can win is house money from here on in.

“We have the pitchers that can do it and if everybody's hitting that day then we can get it done,” said Knudsen.

Raines hasn't given up many earned runs at all this summer on the bump and he's played a solid centerfield while refining his hitting. As a junior, Raines said he was the one quiet one, content to let the older players govern the team. But now he's stepping into more of a leadership role and playing his role with the OIBA playoffs beginning.

“We're a younger team but we're going to step it up in the playoffs,” said Raines. “We're all going to feel like we deserve to be there, do our part and do great there. It's going to be difficult, some of the best teams in the state are going to be there. But if we play our cards right and play the simple game we'll be fine.” by: TIMES PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - Southridge second baseman Austin Miles puts down a tag on a Newberg baserunner.

Said Miles: “Brannon was excellent. He was throwing strikes and that's what we need. As long as we're getting good pitching and hitting the ball, we're a good team.”

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