St. John to pitcher: A heavenly move
Madras gets complete game win from its regular catcher
Moving proved prosperous for Madras High in a Friday April 25 Tri-Valley League baseball game against Valley Catholic.
Having senior catcher Nathan St. John move to pitch and freshman third baseman Vaughn Prow move to catcher proved just two moves of many leading to an 8-0 Madras win.
St. John's pitching and Prow's catching were pivotal but only part of the rotating Madras High baseball coach Bruce Reece engineered Friday.
"We were going through warm ups Thursday and Nathan said he felt good so we went with him," Reece said of deciding to put the team's regular catcher on the mound.
Shifting Joey McConnell to third base and John Cleveland to shortstop were two other Madras moves proving prosperous.
"We'd been shuffling around our defense looking for a combination and we might have finally found one," said Reece.
Cleveland and McConnell were part of an errorless defense Madras posted.
Yet, Cleveland contributed first offensively. He launched a first-inning pitch over the fence in right-center field.
The game was even moved. Set for Milwaukie, it was moved to Madras when Valley Catholic called to say its field was not playable but it was willing to travel.
St. John scattered three hits. The defense kept any of the runners from getting back home.
Earlier in the week Madras discovered The Dalles has only fallen a notch or two from the top rung it occupied last spring. In an April 23 visit to The Dalles, Madras lost to the defending Oregon 3A and Tri-Valley champion, 11-1.
Friday's result proved more pleasant for the White Buffalos.
Cleveland's first-inning home run staked the Buffs and St. John to a lead which never shrank. Madras added its second run in the second before scoring twice in each of the third, fourth and fifth innings. Those runs left the Buffs within two of ending the game under a 10-run rule used throughout the state. Potentially game-ending runs were sent to the plate by Madras in the fifth and sixth innings only to have Valley Catholic stop the bids for a 10-run win.
Hitting the ball well against Valley Catholic -- compared to at The Dalles -- left Reece hopeful.
There were four or five doubles pounded out by varied Buffs to augment Cleveland's home run, Reece recalled.
"I have a feeling it's going to take eight wins to make the playoffs, but you never know in this league," Reece said of the Buffs Tri-Valley playoff prospects.
At 3-4 after the first half of its league schedule, Madras nearly needs to win five of its final seven games to reach the level Reece conjectured.
But, said Reece, the fact that some of the teams they have left still need to make up games while the Buffs have not missed a game, even though some were relocated, could work to Madras's advantage.
Having various players -- Jason Walters and McConnell each doubled twice while Owen Danzuka showed the patience to wait and drive a double himself -- getting hot with the bat will only help Madras.
If St. John heats up similarly to last year and begins averaging an extra base hit, or two, per game, his pitching prowess is going to begin looking all the more invaluable. Using top pitchers and defenders without exhausting a hitter for them provides him more flexibility to use some players in special spots late in any game, said Reece.
Getting quicker runners on base after having more effective hitters step up to bat proved just one situation in which a jumbled lineup was working Friday, Reece explained.
While not sure how long it would take to reach a comfortable lineup earlier in the season, Reece showed some satisfaction with how Friday's game went.
"Hopefully, the rest will give a couple of our pitchers a chance to workout," Reece said, adding, "I like knowing a pitcher is ready when they are asked to pitch."
He explained that there were a few sore arms after the work they did Monday and Wednesday of last week, but St. John came through to help the likes of Kelly Divine and Patrick Marston not have to pitch.
Reece said he was comfortable asking the pitchers if they were ready on the day before a game. He gets honest answers often enough, said Coach Reece, that he can tell which of the pitchers is really ready. Since there are five and six Buffs who have already pitched this year, he is not hesitant about considering using them just a couple innings each in a game, noted Reece. They would be able to recover better with only those couple innings of pitching each.
St. John was handling Valley Catholic so effectively, however, on Friday, he was not about to change, said Reece.
Who he goes with during this week's games might be made easier with the rest some of them have had, noted Reece.