BASEBALL: Gaston nips Vernonia in season opener but gets smoked by 5A Hillsboro on Friday
Gaston split its first two non-league baseball games of the season, but looked admittedly shaky in the process.
The Greyhounds (1-1) beat Vernonia 10-6 in an error-filled season opener last Tuesday, then absorbed a brutal 16-2 loss to Hillsboro on Friday.
'We're nowhere close to where we want to be,' said Gaston head coach Tim Olietti. 'We're not swinging the bat aggressively or with any confidence. We need to start getting better.'
In last Tuesday's opener against Vernonia, the Hounds jumped out to a 10-2 lead before giving up four unearned runs in the bottom of the sixth. A potential inning-ending double play was muffed with one out and runners on first and second, and Vernonia followed with three straight hits to get within four. Senior Parker Bolden came on in relief and preserved the win.
Gaston scored its 10 runs on nine hits, and the Hounds tore up the base paths with nine steals. Vernonia's six runs were all unearned.
Nick Brunswick went 2 for 4 and drove in a pair of runs for Gaston, and Bolden was 1 for 4 with two stolen bases and a run scored. Ryan Lewis had two hits and an RBI, while Galen Hinely went 1 for 2 with two RBIs and two runs scored.
Senior Cody Fassold started the game on the mound and faced the minimum through three innings, striking out eight without allowing a hit. Robbie Brown threw two innings of hitless relief before Nick Delplanche entered to start the sixth. Delplanche walked the first two hitters he faced but induced two straight groundouts, the second of which should have gotten Gaston out of the inning. Instead it opened the door for four Vernonia runs.
'That's frustrating because Nick feels like he did something wrong, when in reality he put us in position to get out of the inning,' Olietti said.
Friday's game against Hillsboro, a 5A program, was even uglier. Gaston did almost nothing right and the Spartans tagged Fassold for eight hits and six runs in just four innings.
'They wanted to hit him so bad, because those kids know Cody and they've played with him before,' Olietti said. 'Cody was out over the plate and they were just taking everything to right field. They did a good job of that.'
Fassold struck out nine, but gave up five earned runs and was saddled with the loss. Despite the lopsided score, the teams played all seven innings and Olietti trotted out a committee of pitchers to finish the game.
'We bypassed the 10-run rule. Usually that's fine with me,' Olietti said. 'I'd just as soon keep playing because I want my guys to get their at bats. But that was one of those games where I just wanted it to be over. We didn't play well at all.'
According to Olietti, his team is talented enough to win plenty of games this year, but lacks game experience.
'Hillsboro is a solid team. In my opinion, they're an average to above-average 5A program, but they're a team we should be able to beat 50 percent of the time,' he said. 'The biggest difference is maturity and confidence. They have kids who have played competitive baseball for most of their lives. We have kids who've played two varsity games. They're good athletes, but they just don't have experience at this level.'
Monday's scheduled game against Marshall was rained out. The Hounds were slated to travel to Willamina on Tuesday, but results were not available at press time.
'We're playing scared. We're not aggressive at the plate and we're constantly hitting behind in the count,' Olietti said. 'It's disappointing to get rained out because we need to play games to get better.'