Viks cap non-league play with losses

Baseball - Forest Grove closes out preseason play with two non-league losses
by: Chase Allgood, Forest Grove junior Aaron Huson throws a pitch during last Tuesday’s game.

Thin pitching finally caught up to Forest Grove last week as the Vikings tried to squeeze in four non-league games prior to the start of the Pacific Conference baseball season.

In an effort to iron out some of the wrinkles prior to conference play - which begins this week with a three-game series against Tigard - Forest Grove took the field four times last week and ultimately succumbed to a lack of available arms.

The highlight of the week was a 7-4 win over a quality Westview squad on Wednesday. The lowlights included blown leads against Reynolds on Monday and Southridge on Tuesday, plus an 8-1 drubbing at the hands of Beaverton on Friday.

'We were pretty short on pitching,' Forest Grove head coach Joe Baumgartner said. 'We just wanted to get ready for this week, so we didn't want to burn any of our guys out.'

Forest Grove trotted out five different pitchers in Friday's loss to Beaverton (9-1). The Beavers led 2-1 heading into the fifth inning, but blew the game open with four runs in the frame. They tacked on two more runs in the sixth for the final margin of victory.

Taylor Vandecouvering was 2 for 3 with a double for Forest Grove and senior Joey Flanery hit the Vikings' first home run of the season - a leadoff shot in the first inning.

Forest Grove got a much-needed win on Wednesday against Westview (3-5), building a 7-1 lead and then holding off the Wildcats in the seventh.

Kyle Swaja started for the Vikings and went six innings, scattering four hits and striking out four. He left the game in the seventh after allowing a leadoff home run, a walk and a single. Nathan Tasa entered the game and gave up two quick hits that pulled Westview within three runs at 7-4, but the junior retired the next three batters in order to notch his first save of the season.

'Swaja had two really rough outings earlier this spring, but he pitched unbelievable,' Baumgartner said. 'He really had them off-balance. He had a great curveball.'

Aaron Huson had two hits, including a double, and four RBIs for Forest Grove.

Huson started on Tuesday against Southridge (4-4) and pitched five innings, striking out three. After allowing three runs on three hits in the top of the first, Huson settled in and retired the next 12 batters he faced to keep Forest Grove in contention.

'Huson did a good job,' Baumgartner said. 'He gave up three runs in the first, but after that he was really in control.'

Forest Grove led 6-3 going into the seventh inning but gave up three runs to send the game to extra innings. Southridge scored two runs in the 10th to go ahead 8-6, but the Vikings answered with two of their own in the home half and officials called the game due to darkness.

Mitch Ooley, who was scheduled to start the next day against Westview, instead came on and threw four innings of relief for the Vikings, giving up the two runs in the 10th.

Chris Hormann and Jeremy Makus each had two hits for Forest Grove, while Swaja had a double and two RBIs and Huson had an RBI single.

'We went with a lot of pitchers last week to spread the workload,' Baumgartner said. 'I think we'll be OK in league. We can play three games in a week, but four games in one week - including a 10-inning game - that's a lot for a high school pitching staff.'

Baumgartner said the obvious focus in league play will be on closing out opponents - prior to the Southridge game, Forest Grove let a four-run lead slip away in the seventh inning against Reynolds last Monday.

'We've played some really good teams we could have won quite a few of the games that we lost,' Baumgartner said. 'What we've done up until now is a learning experience, but it doesn't dictate where we go from here. Once league starts, basically everybody's starting over.'

The Vikings started Pacific Conference play with a three-game series against Tigard (5-3) this week. The teams will play today at 5 p.m. at Tigard High School, then return to Forest Grove for the final game of the series on Friday at 5.