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Baseball: Gervais season comes down to final week

Cougars play a pair of double headers at home this week

PHIL HAWKINS - Gervais pitcher Tim Ahern launches the ball toward home plate in the first game of the Cougars' double-header against the No. 6 Blanchet Catholic Cavaliers on Thursday. Gervais plays six games in eight days to close out the season, including two home double headers this week against Salem Academy on Wednesday and Colton on Friday.
Eight days.

As the spring sun finally begins to emerge in May, the fate of the Gervais baseball team's 2017 season will come down to how well it plays in the next week and a day.

And while the Cougars are certainly not alone in having their playoff future up in the air going into the final week of the season, few baseball teams in the 3A classification will be playing almost half of their league schedule in the next eight days.

"I think the kids are excited, I'm excited," Gervais head coach Lindsay McCargar said. "I think having the sun pop out over the past few days has changed a lot of people's perspectives."

The Cougars have had an unusual season to say the least. Every baseball and softball team in the Willamette Valley has been forced to maneuver their schedule between infrequent patches of dry weather in April, but few have been as severely affected as Gervais.

The baseball team has been plagued by cancellations and postponements all year that robbed the Cougars of all but one preseason game and pushed a number of league contests to the end of the season.

"We've had some wet years and things happen, but never like this," McCargar said.

As a result, Gervais enters the final week of the regular season with six games — 40 percent of its league schedule — on the docket. That gives the Cougars a rare opportunity to make a significant climb up the PacWest Conference standings if the team can string together a handful of strong performances at home this week.

Gervais (2-8, 2-7 PacWest) currently sits in sixth at the bottom of the league standings, but is just a game and a half out of the league playoff picture. To get there, the Cougars will have to leap over Scio (5-14, 3-9) and Jefferson (5-11, 4-8) over the next eight days.

PHIL HAWKINS - Despite limited experience on the mound this year, Gervais senior Derrick Jaramillo held the No. 6 Cavaliers to five runs in five and two-thirds innings in the second game of the Cougars' double-header against Blanchet Catholic on Thursday."It's a big week for us," McCargar said before the Cougars' scheduled home game against Jefferson on Monday. "They've taken the series from us already, but it's a chance for us to get a win and stay in that race."

Jefferson won the first two games of the series against Gervais at the beginning of April, including a 2-1 loss to open the league schedule that the Cougars were leading before the Lions capitalized on a late-game error.

The game against Jefferson kicks off a week that includes a double header against Salem Academy (9-3, 7-2) on Wednesday followed by another double header against Colton (5-6, 6-9) on Friday. The season ends on Monday, May 15 with a final game at Salem Academy, but the Cougars' five home games this week will likely determine if the team can sneak up from the bottom of the standings to claim the final league playoff spot.

"It is challenging having to play so many games this week," McCargar said. "As far as pitching is concerned it's going to be tough, but we've got a gameplan for the week and it's all going to come down to who makes more mistakes and who can put their bat on the ball to score more runs."

Heading into the week, the Cougars were able to play some tuneup games against the league-leading No. 6 Blanchet Catholic Cavaliers (12-5, 11-0). Gervais fell 17-2 on May 2 and followed with back-to-back losses in a double header on Thursday — 14-2 and 9-0. Despite the final margins of victory, McCargar was pleased with how the team had played against the two-time defending league champions, particularly in the double header.

"We had some really good defensive stuff throughout the day," McCargar said. "Some kids made some really great plays."

Senior Derrick Jaramillo got the start against the Cavs in the second game and held them to five runs in the first five innings of play before having to retire due to a rising pitch count. Jaramillo has seen limited time on the mound this season, and McCargar was impressed with his ability to come in with little in-game experience to keep the Blanchet bats at bay.

PHIL HAWKINS - Senior infielder Calen Bischel and the rest of the Cougars are excited to play consistently this week now that the April showers are thoroughly in the rearview mirror.
"He's only pitched an inning here or there all year," McCargar said. "He stepped in and was doing really well through the sixth and before I had to pull him."

Pitch counts will be a game inside the game for Gervais to monitor during the week. With so many contests coming up in such a short period of time, the Cougars will have to be judicious in which players they throw out on the mound to make sure they have a full staff for Friday's double header against the Vikings.

"There's going to probably be a game where four or five kids could pitch and you're going to throw them out just enough so they can come out the next day," McCargar said. "A lot of teams this week are going to have that same pitching issue. That's what it is. Everybody has to deal with it, not just us."

But the team is playing, and with the sun out in full force, that means the daily anxiety of whether a game is going to be postponed is rapidly evaporating like so much rain. And that alone is reason enough to celebrate this week.

"It's been a crummy year being inside, but it sure would be nice to finish this out on a real positive note and give ourselves a chance to at least compete for a league tournament spot," McCargar said.

Phil Hawkins covers all things sports and Gervais. He can be reached at 503-765-1194 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..