Extra-inning victory lifts St. Helens baseball team's spirits
The bus ride west on Interstate 84 on Wednesday afternoon was an upbeat one for St. Helens after the events on the baseball diamond earlier in the day.
In dramatic fashion, the Lions beat Redmond 10-9 in eight innings to cap a stretch of four games in three days in Pendleton.
"Exciting game," St. Helens coach Jeff Timmons said after his club persevered in its finale at the Red Lion Buckaroo Baseball Classic.
For a while, it looked like it would be excitement of the wrong kind for the Lions, losing a 6-1 lead in the seventh inning.
"Our youth and inexperience raised its ugly head," Timmons said.
But the Lions' more experienced players led the way in the extra inning. Senior Joey Binam led off the top of the eighth with double, senior David Parks followed with an RBI double, sophomore Joe Rea added a sacrifice fly and senior Kyle Harris homered to push ahead 10-6.
Redmond didn't give up, though. The Panthers pushed across three runs and had the tying run on second with two out when St. Helens left fielder Kaleb Edwards, a freshman, chased down a deep fly ball to end the game.
Parks had three doubles in the win and Rea allowed one hit in four innings as the St. Helens starter.
"We gutted out a win," Timmons said. "With four games in three days, we were down to the last of our pitchers by the end of it and our backs were against the wall. But the kids came through."
It was the first win of the season for the Lions, who returned home at 1-5 — all road games — and now will prepare for the start of the Northwest Oregon Conference season, a 5 p.m. Wednesday game against NWOC favorite Wilsonville, which is a deceiving 4-4.
Three of the Wildcats' losses came by two, three and five runs to three premier Class 6A teams, Jesuit, Central Catholic and Tigard. On the other side of the ledger, Wilsonville has beaten Hood River Valley, Summit, Lincoln, Beaverton and Canby.
"Wilsonville is going to be a real big challenge for us — they've played probably the toughest schedule of anybody in our league — but we do get two of the three games against them at our place," Timmons said.
The Lions will be excited to see action on their field.
"We've only had four home games the last two years — the field's never playable — and we've only been able to practice there once so far this year," Timmons said.
But "the grit and grind these guys showed against Redmond gets me really excited about the league season. We have some tough opponents right off the bat, but then we get to finish with maybe the lower half of the league."
The Lions will rely this spring on a collection of pitchers, starting with senior Owen Wolfe, Harris, Rea and junior Jacob Klein.
Rea and Parks "had really good weeks" at the plate, as well, Timmons said, and junior Justin Olson "is quietly hitting in the high .300s, putting the ball in play and getting hits or moving runners over."
The Lions will have a new look — or looks — at various spots on defense this year.
"Our whole outfield is new," Timmons said, "and the only guys who have seen regular playing time in the field on varsity before are Rea and Parks."
None of that, Timmons said, should slow the Lions.
"A lot of our guys can play multiple positions, so we can move people around. Harris, for example, has played outfield, first base and was playing shortstop against Redmond."
St. Helens began its stay in Pendleton with an 8-5 Monday loss to David Douglas that in some ways was like the Redmond game, only with a less-happy ending.
The Lions led the Scots 5-1, but lost it in the seventh inning when they made six errors.
St. Helens then fell 7-1 to undefeated Roseburg, which was ranked fourth in 6A, and lost 11-0 in five innings to Pendleton. The host Buckaroos struck out nine St. Helens batters and limited the Lions to one hit, a first-inning double by Rea.
Roseburg was a much better outing for St. Helens.
"I was really proud of the kids," Timmons said. "It should have been like a 3-1 game."
Overall, "with a little more-experienced team, I think we could have come away with two, if not three wins on this trip, but we still got one, which was good, especially against another 5A school," Timmons said. "We're a couple of ground ball plays and one fly ball from being 3-3 overall."
The Redmond game showed the potential for St. Helens to win more often this season.
"It was such a good team win — everybody contributed in one way or another," Timmons said. "We didn't strike out once, we put the ball in play and moved the runner over every time from second to third ... I was just really proud of how we played."