Baseball - Vikings salvage a three-game Pacific Conference set with a 5-2 win on Friday

For the last three weeks, Forest Grove baseball coach Joe Baumgartner has stressed what his team needed to do to put itself in a better position than last year, when the Vikings scuffled to a 2-7 record and had to win five of their last six games to make the playoffs.

But after last week's three-game Pacific Conference series against Tualatin - in which the Vikings won only once - here Forest Grove sits with an identical 2-7 record.

'We're in the same spot we were in at this point last year,' said Baumgartner, whose 2007 squad swept Newberg and took two of three from McMinnville to nab the conference's final state playoff berth. 'The bad thing is that Mac is doing much better than they were last year, so taking two of three from them isn't going to be easy.'

Forest Grove (5-14, 2-7) can keep itself in the playoff hunt this week with a three-game series against last-place Newberg (4-15, 1-8), but any slip-ups against the Tigers will make next week's series against McMinnville all the more difficult.

'If we can win two of three this week [against Newberg] we should still be in the hunt,' Baumgartner explained. 'If we can sweep, we should be in pretty good shape.'

Losing two of three last week to league-leading Tualatin (15-4, 8-1) wasn't a huge shock. In fact, Forest Grove's 5-2 victory on Saturday was more of a shock - it was the first league game the No. 3 ranked Timberwolves have lost all season.

Staring down the barrel of a sweep, Baumgartner sent Mitch Ooley to the mound on Saturday and the junior righthander didn't disappoint, pitching seven innings of four-hit ball with six strikeouts.

'Mitch pitched a gem,' Baumgartner said. 'That was the story of the game. He was hitting his spots and we played pretty good defense behind him.'

Ooley gave up just one earned run and senior Kyle Swaja provided the offensive support, going 2 for 4 with two doubles and three RBIs. Sophomore Joe Piercey was 2 for 2 with an RBI and a run scored.

'That was huge,' Baumgartner said of Saturday's win. 'We knew we probably needed that one. If they sweep us, we're in trouble.'

Thursday's series opener was a tight affair, but Tualatin eventually prevailed 4-1. Forest Grove junior Aaron Huson dueled for seven innings with Tualatin ace Mitchell Lambson, putting up nearly identical numbers. Huson pitched seven innings, striking out eight and allowing nine hits and two earned runs. Lambson, who is committed to Arizona State, also struck out eight while allowing eight hits and one earned run.

'Huson pitched a great game. He's been struggling and he went out there and gave us a real boost,' Baumgartner said. 'We really competed well against a kid who threw a no-hitter against Canby earlier this year and has a full ride to Arizona State.'

Forest Grove jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the top of the first on a leadoff double by Chris Hormann and an RBI single by Swaja. Hormann went 3 for 4 in the game with two doubles and the Vikings' only run.

Tualatin evened the score in the bottom of the first, then went ahead 3-1 on solo home runs in the third and fourth innings. The Wolves got an unearned run in the sixth to put things away.

Friday's game was another close affair, but one bad inning sunk the Vikings and allowed Tualatin to pull away for a 10-3 victory. Forest Grove led 3-2 in the top of the third and had the bases loaded with nobody out, but couldn't muster a run. A defensive meltdown in the bottom of the frame gave Tualatin a 7-3 lead.

'It was such a close game for a while,' Baumgartner said. 'It was amazing. We went from thinking we might get five runs to giving up five runs. It was a much closer game than the score indicated. We really just had one bad inning.'

The Vikings will look to rebound this week against Newberg. The teams were scheduled to open the series on Tuesday, but results were not available at press time. Newberg hosts Game 2 today, and the teams return to Forest Grove on Friday for Game 3.

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