How many errors can a baseball team make in one game and still have a chance to win?
Well, in Monday's TRL championship game against Clackamas, the Lake Oswego American Legion team committed six errors - most of them costly - and still only lost the game 4-3.
After winning the regular season league title, Lake Oswego will now take the league's No. 2 seed into the metro area playoffs, which begin this weekend.
For a while, it looked like the Lakers might squeak out a 3-2 decision, and grab the No. 1 seed in the process, after an impressive sixth-inning rally netted a pair of runs. But the lead was short-lived as Clackamas got those two runs back in an error-plagued seventh inning that was nothing short of bizarre.
That capped a night in which three of Clackamas' four runs were unearned. At least two of Lake Oswego's six errors came when a player simply made an ill-advised decision. Another case of bad judgment led to an easy infield hit for Clackamas rather than an error for the fielder.
Part of the blame for Lake Oswego's shoddy fielding could be attributed to the fact that several players were playing out of position because of injuries and illness. Still, interim head coach Brian Keswick had trouble explaining how one of the best legion teams in the Portland area could make six errors in one game.
'I don't mind the physical errors. That's part of the game, but the mental errors are the ones you want to address,' the coach said.
It seemed that Lake Oswego's starting pitcher, Jared Van Hoon, deserved a better fate than the complete game loss he was handed. But it wasn't exactly his best night of the year, however. He gave up only four hits, but he also walked five batters and hit another. Factor in the six errors his defense committed and Van Hoon was constantly having to pitch his way out of trouble.
Van Hoon then may have hurt his own cause in the bottom of the sixth when he tried to try turn a lead-off double into a triple after an overthrow at second. The Laker star wound up being thrown out at third, although it looked as though he might have been safe.
'I'm biased but I honestly think he was safe,' Keswick said. 'But we have to overcome that stuff.
'The nice thing is we did (overcome it). We got some guys on base and took the lead.'
Until that inning, Lake Oswego really hadn't done much on offense. The Lakers' lone run through the first five innings came when Craig Mooney lined a triple into the right-center field gap to score Ryan Attridge. That tied the score at 1-all. For most of the rest of the game, though, Lake Oswego simply didn't have an answer for Clackamas' hard-throwing Nick Struck.
The bottom of the sixth was a different story, however. Van Hoon's lead-off double was a sign of things to come, even though he was thrown out at third.
The next five Lake Oswego batters managed to reach base - with consecutive singles by Moto Asai, Nik Torkelson, Tom Slade, then a walk to Attridge and another single by Mooney.
Torkelson's single scored Asai from first, with the help of an outfield error. Then, Mooney gave the Lakers the go-ahead run, at 3-2, with a perfectly executed squeeze bunt that scored Torkelson.
But that's where the scoring ended as Lake Oswego's next two batters struck out to end the threat.
'With one out, we still could have made it a bit inning,' Keswick noted afterward.
Lake Oswego could have used some more runs after seeing the way the top of the seventh played out.
The frame started with a walk, Van Hoon's fifth free pass of the game. Clackamas then attempted to sacrifice the runner over to second, but a throw by Attridge, the catcher, sailed over the first baseman's head, putting runners on second and third.
Van Hoon managed to strike out the next batter, but the following hitter bounced a single through the middle. Both runners wound up scoring when centerfielder Nick Rulli was unable to field the ball cleanly before making a throw to the plate.
It was ironic that Attridge and Rulli each made an error in the final inning, because they proved to be Lake Oswego's best fielders through the rest of the game. Rulli had tracked down anything that was in the air within 100 feet of him and Attridge made two excellent throws to toss out attempted base stealers at second.
Despite all of the miscues, Lake Oswego still had a chance to win the game with another rally in the bottom of the seventh. But nothing happened in that frame as the Lakers went down in order.
In the overall scheme of things, the loss really didn't matter that much since Lake Oswego still wound up with a home-field advantage in the first round of the metro playoffs. But Keswick might want to get in a little extra fielding practice before that series starts, if he can find the time.
'Summer ball is a little bit different because you don't practice as much,' the coach said. '(Plus) we have a lot of young guys and we've had to play some of them out of place because we've had some injuries.'
There's never a good time to have injuries but this might be the worst time of the season for them. The Lakers were already playing without the services of first baseman Michael Wesner, who was nursing a pulled hamstring. However, he should be ready to play by the time the playoffs start.
The biggest question mark might be Tom Zarosinski, who feared that he had blown out his shoulder last week on a throw from third base. Fortunately, an MRI showed that nothing was torn, but his availability for the playoffs remains uncertain at this point.
To make matters worse, it's highly unlikely that starting catcher Jeff Kremer will see any more action this summer after contracting mono.
'He's out for at least two more weeks,' Keswick said. 'That's something you just don't want to mess around with.'
Even though Lake Oswego lost Monday's contest, the Lakers gained a little more experience playing in close games, which should come in handy for the playoffs. It seemed most of their league games this season were decided by two runs or less, and they won most of them.
'No game has been easy for us,' Keswick said. 'We've had a lot of exciting games like that.'