Glencoe wins pitcher's dual with Forest Grove
Great pitching or poor hitting? Often difficult to tell, but in Thursday's baseball game between Glencoe and Forest Grove, it was a little of both.
The Tide's Nathan Sprenger and Vikings starter Rhett Larson allowed just eight hits combined, but like in most games, it's not the number of hits that matter most, but rather when you get them that make the difference.
Glencoe manufactured one run in the first and a second in the third, and watched as Forest Grove failed to capitalize with runners in scoring position in the fourth, fifth and sixth en route to a 2-0 win in the teams' nonleague game April 5 at Hillsboro's Ron Tonkin Field.
"We played pretty well defensively and again, got a good pitching performance, but can't seem to find the right equation offensively to get our guys going," said Glencoe head coach Tim Stewart. "But we got a couple RBIs and a few hits, so we'll look at it as an improvement and try to get better."
Sprenger and junior Jordan Williams held the Vikings to just three hits, but more importantly beat-back Forest Grove scoring opportunities with strikeouts and inning-ending ground balls, preserving their lead and ultimately their win. Yet, while the Tide celebrated their success, the Vikings were left to lament what could've been if able to capitalize on any of a number of late game opportunities.
"Ultimately two out hitting let us down, both today and in the McMinnville game yesterday," said Forest Grove head coach Justin Engeseth. "That's something we haven't worked much on yet, but once we get to those in the next couple weeks we'll be firing on all cylinders down the stretch."
Larson had impressive control of his pitches, limiting the Tide to just five hits. But while few in numbers, unlike the Vikings they made there's count. After scratching one across in the first with a little help from a Forest Grove mistake, Glencoe got its second run in the third when a leadoff double by Sam Kirk got things started. After a ground out, Kirk advanced to third on an errant pickoff attempt, then scored when Cole Hoskins drove him in with a single to right field.
The Vikings put two runners on in the fourth, but failed to score when Zach Richards grounded out to end the inning. Then Spencer Jones led off the fifth with a double, then advanced to third on a wild pitch. But after consecutive strikeouts and a hit batsmen put runners on the corners, the inning ended when the Viks were caught stealing.
Following wins in four of their last five contests, Engeseth was obviously frustrated with his team's lack of execution at the plate, but overall had the proper perspective regarding the game and looked at the positives, including Larson's performance on the mound and his team's work in the field.
"I think it was a good game," said Engeseth. "I think overall right now where we want to be is defensive, and overall we had a pretty good defensive game. We had a miscue early that allowed them to manufacture a run, and I hoped we'd do that in the fourth, fifth and sixth innings as well, but we didn't."
Forest Grove was coming off of a split with rival McMinnville, in which the Vikings beat the home Grizzlies 9-4 before falling at home the following night 9-3 in Forest Grove. Engeseth is optimistic looking forward, primarily due to hopefully increasing opportunity to get out on what has been a wet field to work on their shortcomings. But while content, for now, he's far from satisfied with the overall results.
"The split with McMinnville was okay, but that's not what we were expecting after beating them at their place," said the coach. 'Once this weather turns and we can get out on our field more, we'll get to work on these things we're struggling with and be in good shape."
The Forest Grove coach also is cautiously optimistic about young pitching prospects like Larson, who've gained valuable experience in recent weeks and earned more time on the mound.
"Rhett Larson, we've been trying to get him out, and he's right in the mix," Engeseth said. "I think he can definitely help us going forward."
Meanwhile, Glencoe's Stewart, despite the win, is still trying to piece together the puzzle that's been his team's performance at the plate.
"It's a mystery," he said with a chuckle. "Mechanically, this is one of the best teams I've had at the plate regarding fundamentally strong swings, but we're having a lot of timing and approach issues, but we're confident we'll get that going eventually."
And ultimately he summed things up this way.
"A win's a win," he said. "It wasn't pristine or polished by any means, but we'll take it."
Glencoe and Forest Grove are scheduled to play again Monday, April 9 at Forest Grove.