1A/2A baseball — St. Paul sandwiches losses to Perrydale and Santiam around 5-3 win vs. Delphian

MILL CITY — To St. Paul head coach Julio Vela, the difference between the Bucks and the top teams in the conference — like Kennedy, Country Christian and Regis — largely has to do with consistency in fielding the ball.

Defensive lapses have proved especially costly in close games this season and that was the case Monday versus Santiam.

Fresh off a 5-3 win over Delphian Saturday, St. Paul held a 6-5 lead over the Wolverines with two out in the bottom of the sixth inning, but an error on a routine ground ball allowed Santiam to knot the score.

The Bucks found themselves in a similar situation with two runners on and two outs in the bottom of the seventh, but this time St. Paul was the victim of a bloop single over third base that drove home the winning run and handed Vela’s team its sixth one-run loss this season.

“I try to tell my guys, you don’t have to make the spectacular play,” Vela said. “Just make the routine play every single time ... that’s the mark of a solid team.”

Despite a 3-for-3 performance from Carson Smith, which raised his team-leading average to .409, the Buckaroos (5-14, 4-12 2A/1A Special District 2) also had chances to put the game away at the plate.

Jason McCain and Jackson Connor, who raised his average to .350, collected two hits apiece as well.

“We had our chances,” Vela said. “We had many situations where we had runners in scoring position and just couldn’t execute the bunt to move people over or get the key base hit.”

Cody Faber was saddled with the tough-luck loss after pitching 4.1 innings of relief, but was stellar in the 5-3 win over Delphian two days prior.

Faber allowed one earned run in a complete game performance, striking out eight and walking three.

Tyler Smith collected two hits to lead the offense, which jumped out to a 5-1 lead through four and a half innings before the Dragons scored single runs in the fifth, sixth and seventh frames.

It was definitely a welcome relief to be on the other end of a close score.

“The positive side of that is we are in a bunch of them,” said Vela “(We’re) kind of hopeful that these are the ones that are going to be on the other side of the ledger for us as we move forward next year.”

It was a much needed performance for St. Paul, which didn’t have much to hang its hat on in a 14-4 loss to rival Perrydale to open the week May 7.

Despite the poor record, the Bucks have been largely competitive throughout the season. St. Paul eclipsed 100 total season runs in its win over Delphian, boasting a run differential much closer to the teams above them in the standings than the teams in the cellar of the conference.

Vela said he hopes to carry that play into the final two weeks of the season, building on good fundamentals as the team looks forward to next season when the team’s younger players can turn their early experience into success.

“We have one senior on this team, and I keep telling these guys that we’ve got to keep moving forward,” he said. “These one-run games that we’re losing this year –  these are teams we’re going to be on top of next year if we keep working at it.”

St. Paul will host Regis Wednesday and Waldport Friday before closing out the season at Kennedy Saturday and at Western Mennonite May 21.

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