Pickles get important win
The Portland Pickles dug out an important 5-3 victory over the Marysville Gold Sox on Sunday before 2,297 fans at Walker Stadium.
The win put Portland 1 1/2 games ahead of Marysville in the race for the fourth spot in the Great West League, which will have four teams qualify for the playoffs in another month.
The Pickles had lost all five previous games in their first homestand of July, including two games against Marysville.
"We didn't play very good in this homestand, and these Pickle fans deserve a little bit better performance," manager Jeff Lahti said. "They're a good fan base. We want to win for them."
Portland got on the board early as Marysville starting pitcher Cole Van Den Helder struggled in the first inning. Three straight walks set up a bases-loaded scenario for Pickles right fielder Matt Starcovic. His single scored Alex Henwood and began a three-run outburst.
Alec Leighton and Zander Clarke each walked in a run in the opening inning.
Starcovic finished with two RBIs, going 2 for 3. He said he was "seeing the ball well and making contact with the ball and doing something big for my team."
Outfielders Starcovic and Leighton displayed their strong defense, too, recording a combined 10 putouts. They said it's all about hard work, effort and wanting to help their pitchers.
"PItchers are always working their butts off, and it feels good to have their back," Leighton said. "In practice, we've really been working on our defense, and it feels good when it translates into the game."
Pitcher Josh Hendrickson was given the nod to go against the Gold Sox. The Australian left-hander was able to provide the Pickles with a solid six-inning start. He gave up three runs on three hits and recorded six strikeouts. Hendrickson improved his record to a team-leading 5-1.
In relief, Sam Muskat worked two innings and Dustin Redish handled the ninth to earn his first save.
At the plate, the Pickles used some small ball, with bunts from Leighton in the fifth and Henwood in the sixth. Two runs in the fifth broke a 3-3 tie.
Leighton showed off his speed on multiple occasions and was able to put his teammates in a position to score at the plate.
"I really love showing off my speed with bunts," Leighton said. "I really love stealing bases. Whenever I can do that, it's going to help the team."
Lahti weighed in on the change of pace offensively.
"Small ball is an opportunity in every game that it comes up," hesaid. "'Mags' (assistant coach Mark Magdaleno) has pretty much taken care of that part of the game, and he's going to take whatever they give us."
The Pickles (15-21) will start a road trip on Tuesday with a visit to Marysville (14-23) for a three- game series.