Pickles' pitching potent in series finale
A two-hit shutout and series-clinching win over the Port Angeles Lefties on Sunday at Walker Stadium was validation for how the Portland Pickles coaching staff intends to manage its pitchers.
Employing what general manager Gregg Swenson calls the "piggyback starter system," the college wood-bat team intends to limit starting pitchers to three or four innings or 60 to 70 pitches per outing.
On Sunday, the Pickles struck out 16 Lefties and allowed runners to advance into scoring position just five times in a 2-0 victory before a crowd of 2,017,
"That was kind of the piggyback system executed to perfection," manager Justin Barchus said. "Three different looks, three different guys, nobody runs out of gas, and we play defense behind them."
One night after left-hander John Beller (USC) tossed four shutout innings, Sunday starter Damon Treadwell spun an even better performance. Treadwell, a soon-to-be freshman at Cal, allowed one hit and struck out five over four innings.
The 6-6 right-hander used his curveball early and often, which helped keep Lefties hitters behind on his fastball. It was Treadwell's first pitching performance since undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2017.
"I'm really excited for him to get comfortable," Barchus said. "He's just scratching the surface. That kid's going to be really good."
Barchus inserted Treadwell's foil, left-hander Brad McVay, in the fifth inning. McVay, a sophomore from the University of Portland and a Milwaukie High graduate, almost exclusively threw fastballs.
McVay allowed the leadoff batter to reach base in the fifth and seventh innings, but he retired the next three batters each time to keep the shutout intact.
The Pickles went with Brad Bonnenfant (Nevada), a right-handed power arm, to pitch the ninth. Bonnenfant recorded the final two outs via a swinging strike on a fastball.
"We have tons more depth than we did last season," said pitcher and third-year returnee Max Jones, adding that pitching coach Zach Miller "has us going 4-4-1, and we have a lot of good arms, and that's going to keep a lot of arms fresh.
"It's going to keep people from seeing guys too many times. I think we're going to have a ton of success as a staff this year."
Portland (2-1) allowed four runs over the three-game, West Coast League series and did not commit an error.
As in Saturday's 6-1 win, the Pickles used timely hitting and small-ball to separate from Port Angeles (1-2).
Pickles third baseman Daniel Lopez (UP) led off the fourth inning with a double to left center field, then took third base on a low pitch from Lefties starter Baxter Halligan. The throw to the base was ahead of Lopez, but the senior from UP maneuvered around the tag.
Pickles center fielder Joey Cooper (Cal State Northridge) cracked a double over the left fielder's head two batters later to score Lopez.
Cooper, also in his third season with the Pickles, recorded three singles and finished 4 for 4. He homered in Saturday's win. Barchus said he was not surprised to see Cooper flash power in his swing, because the soon-to-be senior started all season for CSUN.
"It's really good that him and Lopez are showing up early, because a lot of the other guys are trying to get their feet back under them," Barchus said. "For them to come in as leaders of this group, who've played here before, that's really helpful to our team."
The Pickles took advantage of a hit batter and pair of groundouts to advance a runner to second base in the seventh. With two out, leadoff hitter Jace McKinney (UP) lined a single over the third baseman's head to add an insurance run.
Halligan, a sophomore-to-be at Northern Colorado who graduated from Lincoln High, held the Pickles' offense in check. He struck out seven batters over the first four innings, scattered six hits and walked one in six-plus innings.
Halligan threw three pitches for strikes and alternated his fastball with secondary pitches.
"He executed what he was given," Barchus said. "I think he was getting a little bit off the outside of the plate, and he continued to blast the outside of the plate, and that was effective for him.
"Those soft lefties can be tough, and he mixed his pitches well. I'd still like to see our offensive mentality improve a bit, but he did a great job for them."
The Pickles now head to Washington for a three-game series with the Cowlitz Black Bears, beginning Monday at 6:30 p.m.
Barchus, who is in his fourth year as a WCL manager, said he will keep the message simple before the first road series.
"Win the first game of the series," he said. "If you're on the road and win the first game, that puts you in a lot better situation. It's tough to win two on the road. Try to really get that first game and then we'll see where we're at from there."