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Defensive woes hamper Vikings

BASEBALL: Forest Grove splits its four games at the Crater Baseball Tournament in southern Oregon
by: Tommy Whitcomb, Forest Grove junior Nathan Tasa throws a pitch during Monday's non-conference game against Hood River.

Forest Grove picked up its first two wins of the season last week at the Crater Baseball Tournament in Central Point, but head coach Joe Baumgartner knows his squad will need to tighten up its defense if more wins are to follow.

Forest Grove (2-7) lost its first two games of the tournament to Century and Crater, then bounced back to win a pair of nail-biters. The Vikings edged South Salem 12-10 last Wednesday, then clipped Sprague 14-13 on Thursday. Both games were hampered by defensive mistakes.

'We've got to get out of these high scoring games and get back to games that are 4-3, 3-2. That's more our style,' Baumgartner said. 'We won't last long playing games with football scores.'

Offensive highlights from the week in southern Oregon included catcher Addison Hummel belting a pair of home runs and senior Jake Freeman raising his batting average to .500 on the season. Freeman also went deep at the tourney.

Defensively, however, the Vikings just could not get their act together.

'Our defensive problems stayed with us the whole tournament,' Baumgartner said.

Following the tournament, Forest Grove returned home and had the weekend to prepare for Monday's home game against Hood River. The Viks cut down on their defensive mistakes, but ultimately lost 8-7 in extra innings.

'We played a little better,' Baumgartner said. 'We had a couple nice double plays and the kids battled really well. They're doing a great job of battling.'

Both teams put four runs on the board in the first inning. Forest Grove surged ahead with two runs in the bottom of the fourth only to see Hood River tie things at 6-6 in the sixth.

Forest Grove senior Pat Verdun singled home the go-ahead run in the bottom of the sixth. Verdun also had a diving catch in the outfield in the fifth to kill a potential Hood River rally.

The visiting Eagles tied things up in the top of the seventh, then won the game with a single run in the eighth.

'It was a tough one,' said Baumgartner.

Hummel went 2 for 4 with an RBI and a run scored. Senior Joey Flanery was 0 for 3, but drew a pair of walks and mixed things up on the base paths with three steals.

Chad Vandehey and Dylan Sullivan both pitched well in relief, said Baumgartner. Only five of Hood River's eight runs were earned.

'We tend to have innings where we give teams extra outs,' Baumgartner said. 'We can't continue to do that. Our pitching has been pretty good. Defense is the biggest area where we need to improve right now.'

Forest Grove has two home games this week before starting Pacific Conference play next Monday. The Vikings will host Jesuit on Thursday and Grants Pass on Saturday afternoon.