Gaston baseball gets tripped up by two league heavyweights

Last year, Gaston’s baseball season was done in by a six-game stretch in which the Greyhounds lost five times to Northwest League powers Knappa and Portland Christian.

This year it was deja vu all over again, as Gaston dropped five out of six against the first-place Loggers and second-place Royals, sinking the Hounds four games off the pace in the league standings and into a position where they will likely need to win back-to-back games in the league playoffs in order to qualify for the Class 2A state playoffs.

“It was kind of brutal,” Gaston coach Sean Casey said. “We had our chances in every game, we just weren’t able to make the most of them.”

Gaston’s skid started on April 9 with a 10-0 loss to Knappa, a game that Casey said his team wasn’t mentally prepared to play.

“We showed up for that first game and we just kind of rolled over,” Casey said. “Knappa showed up totally mentally ready for that game. You could tell from pre-game warmups that they were fired up and ready to play, and we just didn’t match their intensity.”

Later that week, the Hounds battled into extra innings before falling 6-5, and that loss bled into the second game of Friday’s doubleheader, where Knappa wrapped up the series sweep with a 9-2 victory.

“I think they were mentally drained from that (first) game. They fought to take it to extra innings only to have Knappa win, and I just don’t think they had enough left in the tank for the second game,” Casey said.

Those struggles carried over into last Tuesday’s series opener against Portland Christian, when Gaston again forced extra innings only to watch the game slip away when the No. 4-ranked Royals scored three runs in the ninth inning to pick up a 6-3, come-from-behind victory.

“We had our chances to put it away before extra innings, we just weren’t executing,” Casey said. “We’d get a runner to third with one out and then have two guys strike out. We just couldn’t get the hits when we needed them.”

The series concluded with a doubleheader on Monday, and Gaston was able to salvage one win, this time outlasting Portland Christian 3-0 in eight innings. The Royals won the nightcap 7-1, sinking Gaston into third place in the league standings.

Knappa and Portland Christian still must face each other this season, but regardless of the outcome of that series, it appears Gaston is locked into third or fourth place, which would mean the Hounds will need to win two league playoff games on May 18 in order to qualify for the state playoffs.

“I still think we’ve got the talent to win that doubleheader,” Casey said of the league playoffs, which will be staged at Pacific University. “We’ll have to execute when it comes down to it, but on any given day I think we can beat both of those teams.”

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