After a rough start, Banks baseball has bounced back with three straight victories

Banks baseball coach Brian Ackerman knew this season would be a work in progress, and with the nonleague portion of the schedule now in the rearview mirror, he said he is impressed with the progress the Braves are making.

Banks lost three of its first four games but has bounced back with three wins in a row, including a pair of decisive victories over Warrenton and Sutherlin at the Seaside Tournament during spring break. The Braves followed that with a 4-1 win against Rainier last Thursday to improve their record to 4-3 heading into this week’s Cowapa League opener against Scappoose.

“We’ve pitched well enough to win every game and we’ve hit the ball well,” Ackerman said. “We still haven’t played great defense. We’ve really got to tighten some things up, but all that comes from just playing the game. The first few weeks (of the season) are for working out the kinks.”

The Braves got their kinks out early, losing 18-8 against Central in their season opener and also dropping a 16-7 decision against Camas (Wash.) on March 24.

“We were still getting into baseball mode at that point,” Ackerman said. “Sometimes a loss to a bigger school can help build confidence if the guys know the right things to take away from it. For us, we’re going to hit enough to stay in most games, but pitching and defense is ultimately what’s going to win us games.”

Banks has worked relentlessly in practice on cleaning up its defense, and the results are starting to show.

“The last few games we’re playing better defense,” Ackerman said. “We’ve got to make 99 percent of the routine plays because that’s what’s going to win games.

“We just really need to tighten things up on defense, but that comes in practice. It’s not going to happen in a game. In games, you’ve got to react. Practice is the place to think.”

Against Rainier, the defense backed up starter Joey Bonin, who pitched seven strong innings but still found his team trailing 1-0 going into the fifth.

Instead of swinging for the fences, the Braves played some small ball and manufactured a run in the fifth to tie the score at 1-1, and more small ball led to three runs in the top of the seventh, sealing the victory.

“What I liked and didn’t like about the Rainier game is that we didn’t hit the ball through five innings, but we were able to play small ball and manufacture some runs,” Ackerman said. “It wasn’t pretty, but a win’s a win, whether it’s ugly or pretty.”

Ackerman also had praise for Bonin, who was around the strike zone all day and continued Banks’ early run of strong pitching performances.

“Joey pitched a great game. He kept us in it,” Ackerman said. “Rainier is a good hitting team and they didn’t square him up once.”

Banks opened league play at home on Tuesday against Scappoose (results were not available at press time), and the Braves will travel to face the Indians again on Thursday. First pitch is scheduled for 5 p.m.

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