>Bulldogs blitzed by big inning
Culver High's baseball Bulldogs led Salem's Blanchet High, a private school, 3-0 through four innings of their Friday non-league contest only to lose 5-3.
Despite that, first-year Culver coach Shea Little, also the school's athletic director, was not overly disappointed.
Culver was scheduled to try for its first win under Little again on Tuesday, at Madras, against Cascade. There will be more action for Culver on Thursday, Marcy 27, at Mountain View High in Bend against the Mt. View freshmen.
Culver will come back from two games at Mt. View to play again on Friday at La Pine.
Shea did say, though, that he "really hates losing" and that the Bulldogs will try harder to win than gain experience, once all the games start to count.
"I wanted to give our younger players some experience," Little said after Culver's 3-0 lead evaporated.
Senior Nick Hagman started and shut out Blanchet through four innings before being rested.
"I want to get an idea of what we have," Little said of just part of his goals for the non-league portion of the season.
With fellow senior Chris Dix the only member of Culver's roster, besides Hagman, with any notable varsity experience, Little wants to give younger Bulldogs some playing time in the first few weeks, when the games are not against Columbia Basin Conference opponents.
Getting used to varsity competition stands to challenge Culver. The team has five freshman contributing a good deal of playing time to the program.
While a few of them were on all-star teams, just as many of the freshnmen are coming into their high school play with not many innings against the caliber of competition they can expect. Little said he has been impressed with what the CBC puts up as competition in other sports and doesn't expect a lot of change in baseball.
Little noted there were some highlights in Culver's play against Blanchet, besides the early pitching. A couple more timely hits sprinkled in with ones recorded in the first few innings might have Culver a bigger lead that would have been harder to catch.
A low drive that stayed inside the fence after getting there in all of about three hops provided Blanchet with the three runs it needed to catch up in the fifth.
The Blanchet coach even told the Madras coaches that the player had not hit the ball as well as he did on that one trip to the plate all season.
Its defeat was the third of the young season for Culver, which was nipped by Sisters junior varsity and the Crook County JV earlier in the week.
The inexperience of the team is strongly illustrated by the fact that while it has just three seniors with the team, just two of them were on the Culver roster last spring. There will be a number of things to pick up for senior Kasey Kinley, noted Little, while expressing confidence that Kinley and the rest of the competitors could chase down a ball in foul territory as the need arises.
"Our defense is one area I think we can do very well in," said Little.
Also praised by Little were the Culver freshman, who the coach said were looking more ready all the time.
In addition to Josh O'Gorman, who pitched the end of the game against Blanchet for Culver along with another stint earlier in the week, the Culver supply of freshmen includes Kyle Blood, Mitchell Alley, Jake Earnest, David Bedell, and Justin Symons. A couple of sophomores on the team may as well be freshman after not getting to play much last year, when there were at least six seniors in Culver's starting lineup each day, noted Little.
The progress Danny Loredo and Travis Chavez can make will be one determining factor in how well the Bulldogs can do with their young roster.
"As long as there's a lot of hustle shown by these guys, I don't care if it takes until league season until we start winning, as long as we get the wins," Little said.
Among those who have shown hustle is Adam Kinley. He will be gone for most of next week, however, to attend a national dual meet wrestling tournament he qualified for.
Little said he is looking forward to developing a core of players who can carry Culver to enough victories to qualify for the Columbia Basin Conference playoffs. But the state tournament could even be in reach if the newcomers can the experience to feel confident when circumstances like an opponent making a pitching change or a teammate's injury happen to require a change.
Culver came close to it first win of the year two days prior to the loss to Blanchet but couldn't recover from an early lead acquired by Crook County's junior varsity.