Bulldogs getting strong pitching, timely hitting as seasom moves on

Nick Viggiano would love a few more chances to see what he really has to work with this season, but for the first-year Culver baseball coach, that is just not an option.

So as the Bulldogs kick off Class 2A/1A Special District 2 play this week, Viggiano expects his group to basically roll with it.

“It’s tough, but that’s how it is set up. We are in an 11-team league, so we are going to start earlier than other leagues,” Viggiano said. “Plus we’ve had some guys gone (over spring break); we could use some extra work. Maybe next year, we’ll play in a tournament. We’ll see about that.”

But next year is just that, next year. And this year has begun.

Culver entered league play with a 15-9 win over St. Paul Monday night and upped its overall record to 3-2 after splitting a two-game series with Lakeview last week. The Bulldogs were at home Wednesday night to face Santiam and close out the first week of league play Friday at Western Mennonite.

Despite a limited number of outings and innings, Viggiano is pleased with his team’s progress and how they have been playing. He said that having only four preconference games was not an issue and feels his guys have had enough repetitions in practice to work out all of the kinks.

“It’s just a matter of the guys feeling comfortable in what they are doing,” Viggiano said.

One area that Viggiano does not have to worry about at this point of the season is his pitching rotation. Actually, he does have one small problem with it, finding enough innings for everyone. And that is not a bad problem to have.

As the Bulldogs head into conference play, they have a wealth of arms that they can use in a variety of ways. Adam Knepp, Colton Tanner and Clay McClure have already proved that can work multiple innings as starters, while guys like Joe Daugherty and Mack Little can provide relief late in games when needed.

Case in point, Knepp tossed four-plus innings of no-hit ball in Culver’s first win of the season against La Pine and worked five innings of three-hit ball last week in an 11-4 win over Lakeview. McClure, making his first start of the season, threw four solid innings in a 3-0 loss to Lakeview, allowing six hits, while striking out five and giving up a single earned run.

And when the starters come out, Daugherty and Tanner have been a seamless line into the bullpen with both proving to be tough to hit.

“All of our guys have strong arms,” Viggiano said. “They are all feeling good and throwing well. We just have to hit our spots; we aren’t going to blow it by people.”

One thing going for the Bulldogs is that a part of their pitching staff has yet to take the mound. But senior Kyle Bender will get his chance sometime this week.

That will give Viggiano six arms to pick from and give Culver plenty of depth.

“I’d like to get the rotation down to three, and then maybe just two,” he said. “We’ll see how that goes. But it’s nice to have six to seven arms and have only one of them be a senior. “

Viggiano said he has complete confidence in every one of them, but hopes they will continue to be students of the game and build some confidence in themselves.

And that must carry over to the fielders and at the plate, he said.

Still, there has been a lot to be optimistic about.

In the games that Culver has won, it has had good pitching with solid defense to back that up. In the two losses, the pitching was good enough to win, but the defense was not.

In a 3-0 loss to Lakeview, the Bulldogs committed seven errors and struck out 13 times. With that kind of sloppy play, Culver doesn’t have a chance to win, Viggiano said.

But if they can put it all together, Viggiano said the Bulldogs can go a long way.

“I’m very pleased with where we are right now,” he said. “We need to get better, but we are doing that.”

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