Forest Grove is done in by one big inning in a 7-2 nonleague loss to Southridge

One big inning was the difference in this game.

Unfortunately for the Forest Grove baseball team, the Vikings were on the wrong end of it Friday, and they were forced to round out their nonleague schedule with a 7-2 loss to visiting NEWS-TIMES PHOTO: AMANDA MILES  - Forest Grove shortstop Cam Kemper tries to dig out a throw at second base on a stolen base attempt during last Friday's game against Southridge.

The Skyhawks snapped a 1-1 deadlock in the top of the fourth with four runs to seize control of the game. Forest Grove did cut the margin to 5-2 in the fifth, but the Vikings also allowed multiple scoring opportunities to get away, stranding a number of runners on base.

“We gave up the big inning. I didn’t really see that coming. It kind of developed pretty quick,” Forest Grove coach Kevin Tucker said. “We had a hard time with the strike zone, adjusting to it. We weren’t getting pitches that we were used to getting, and so we were having to throw the ball more over the plate. And they took advantage of that and we didn’t.

“That’s the biggest key. We left the bases loaded twice, and you just can’t do that against a team like them.”

With the defeat, Forest Grove entered Pacific Conference play with a 5-4 record. The Vikings opened up their league slate Tuesday against Hillsboro at Hare Field. (Results were not available at press deadline.)

In that definitive fourth inning, Southridge (5-4) loaded the bases against Forest Grove starter Andrew Thorud with one out, and then Andrew Walker sent an RBI double into left field that brought all three of his teammates home. After a strikeout by Thorud for the second out, Walker scored courtesy of David Knudsen’s single to left, putting the visitors up 5-1.

That changed the tone of a contest that had been played quite evenly until that point. Though both teams managed to put runners on base in the first three innings, they could only walk away with a run apiece.

Good defense helped with that. In the first inning, Trevor Schmidtke made a highlight-worthy catch, robbing Parker Stidham of a hit when he hauled in a fly ball while running toward the fence with his glove turned the opposite way. That led to a double play, as Kyle Hein got Walker on the tag at second base after a relay from Cam Kemper.

Southridge got on the board in the third inning when a Forest Grove error led to an unearned run. But the Vikings answered right back in the second half of the inning, getting an RBI single from Kemper that plated Hein, who led off the inning with a single up the middle.

Forest Grove did pull a run back in the fifth on an RBI double by Thorud, but that was the only rally the Vikings could muster. Southridge added two more runs in the sixth for the final margin. Though Forest Grove managed eight hits in the contest, it stranded 11 runners, leaving the bases loaded in the third and sixth innings.

“I think one of the things that frustrates me is they’re putting so much pressure on themselves to produce with the bases loaded or runners in scoring position,” Tucker said. “Really, the pressure should be on the pitcher. I think once our guys ... start to grasp and get a hold of that, things will go a lot easier.”

Still, Tucker said he was pleased with where the team was at going into league play. The offense and relief pitching need a little work, he noted, but he was optimistic heading into the heart of the schedule.

“We’ve got a great group of kids, and I’m looking forward to getting into league and seeing what we can do,” he said.

The Vikings conclude their two-game series against Hilhi with a home contest today. First pitch is scheduled for 4:30 p.m.

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