Gaston hunting for state playoff bid
Just a few short weeks ago, the water level on Gaston's baseball field rose high enough to submerge the benches in both dugouts and make a nice home for a family of ducks.
Last Wednesday, after three days of grueling field maintenance, the Greyhounds beat Vernonia 7-1 on that same field to earn their first home win in more than three seasons.
'It was a lot of work,' said Gaston head coach Sean Casey. 'My assistant coach started mowing on Sunday, then everybody just jumped in and helped, and we worked on it all day Monday and Tuesday.
'I wasn't sure if the guys would be able to swing the bats (against Vernonia) because they all had blisters on their hands from raking and shoveling.'
The Greyhounds didn't need much offense in support of starting pitcher Levi Watkins, who struck out 13 batters and allowed only one run over seven innings on Wednesday, getting some strong defensive support along the way. The first batter of the game ripped a pitch deep into left-center field, but freshman Alex Sweet made a diving catch to rob the Loggers of an extra-base hit and give Watkins an early boost.
'That really set the tone for the game,' Casey said. 'It would have been a leadoff triple, but instead it was nothing. It kind of took the air out of (Vernonia) early.'
Dusty Brown led the Gaston offense, going 3-for-3 on the day with three singles.
Prior to last Wednesday's game, Gaston (10-4, 8-4) went on the road to sweep a league doubleheader against Nestucca on April 20, winning the first game 10-6 and the second game 9-2.
Watkins belted two home runs to spark the Gaston offense in the opener, and he also came in and pitched the final two innings to earn a save.
'We're doing well,' Casey said. 'We should win out, on paper at least. We're hoping to end the season 16-4.'
That scenario would put the Greyhounds in a tie with Portland Christian for second place, but the Royals hold the tiebreaker advantage, meaning Gaston will likely have to earn a state playoff bid by winning back-to-back games in the league playoffs, which will be held on May 18 at Pacific University.
'We're talking every day about controlling what we can control,' Casey said. 'We plan on winning out, then going and winning two games in the league playoffs.'