But the bats fall silent in two close games with Wilsonville

The Milwaukie Mustangs won only one of three games, as they kicked off their 2013 Northwest Oregon Conference baseball season last week.

But they could have just as easily gone 3-0, as they competed in all three games — a 7-6 extra-inning loss to Wilsonville, a 2-0 loss to Wilsonville, and a 7-3 win over Liberty.

“The best thing is the kids are buying into a system that works for us,” said Milwaukie coach Dan Lee. “We don’t have a lot of long-ball hitters. We may not have a home run all year. But they’re starting to see that you can win in other ways. We’re playing small ball and great defense. And as long as we keep doing that, we’re going to be in a lot of games.”

The Mustangs were impressive on defense in last Friday’s win over Liberty. It rained throughout the game, and the field got a little sloppy. But the Mustangs played error-free defense behind junior left-hander Randall Sam, who pitched a complete game, striking out three, walking six, and allowing just four hits.

The Falcons scored all three of their runs in the fourth inning, when they strung two hits together with three walks. Trailing 3-2, Milwaukie scored a single tally in the fifth inning and four runs in the sixth to pull out the win.

“Heading into the fifth we were thinking it was going to be the last inning, because it was getting pretty sloppy,” Lee observed.

Steven Yerman gave the Mustangs some hope when he reached on an error to lead off the bottom of the fifth. Jordan Huntley singled and T.J. Fisher reached on a bunt single to load the bases.

Jason Espinoza followed with a run-scoring base hit, tying things up at 3-3.

After putting the Falcons down quickly in the top of the sixth, the Mustangs went to work with their bats in the bottom of the stanza.

Elias Brezai doubled to lead off the inning. Kyle Stone laid down a bunt. The Falcons threw the ball away, allowing pinch runner Jose Penuelas to score. Maxx True advanced Stone to third with a sacrifice bunt, and Stone scored on a base hit by Yerman. Fisher walked and Nate Wilson followed with a two-out, two-run infield single, as his sharply hit ball deflected off the pitcher’s glove.

Sam then sent the top of Liberty’s lineup down in order in the top of the seventh, with a flyout to Espinoza in right field, and two groundouts to Huntley at first.

Yerman (3-for-4) headed up Milwaukie’s offense, as the Mustangs reached Liberty pitchers for 10 hits. Wilson (3 RBI) went 2-for-4, with a two-run double in the first inning. Espinoza was 2-for-4, with a double.

The Mustangs got off to a tough start to their league season, losing to Wilsonville 7-6 in eight innings on April 3, after dropping a 2-0 heartbreaker at Wilsonville on April 2.

The Mustangs committed just one error in the two games. But they struck out 17 times in the 2-0 loss and 11 times in the extra-inning loss.

The Mustangs let the April 2 game with Wilsonville at Milwaukie get away from them. They reached Wilsonville’s starting pitcher for six runs and a 6-3 lead in the first two innings. But junior left-hander Jake Jennings (11 strikeouts in 6-1/3 innings) then shut the door on Milwaukie’s offense, and the Wildcats rallied back.

In upcoming games, the Mustangs (3-7, 1-2) play Sherwood (7-4, 3-0) on the road this afternoon, and they entertain the Bowmen on Friday.

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