Forest Grove topples Century, looks forward to remainder of season
Forest Grove completed a two-game sweep of Century with an 11-1 win over the Jaguars Thursday evening, April 29. But with just two seniors on a roster littered with underclassmen, head coach Justin Engeseth — while pleased with the wins — is looking more at the big picture when it comes to his program going forward.
"I think we're getting better, but this is a unique year with some different challenges," Engeseth said. "So, we're taking steps, but they're baby steps."
On this night, the Vikings dominated start to finish, scoring four runs in the first inning on three singles, two doubles, and two walks. They finished with 11 hits and were led offensively by Seth Riverman who went 4-for-4 with an RBI and two runs scored.
Alex Mannen added two hits and two RBI. In all, seven Forest Grove batters tallied hits in the game, including Jake Steltenpohl who touched 'em all with an inside-the-park homerun to right field in the third inning.
On the mound, junior Kaden Clute complimented the Vikings offense with a complete game, allowing just a single earned run on four hits, while striking out six and walking none. Engeseth said Clute — who also plays catcher — has more than carried his weight behind the plate, but is quickly earning his stripes on the bump as well.
"Caden is a really solid catcher," the coach said, "But as you could see in that game against Century, he's very beneficial on the mound as well."
In his place, Tyler Rebsom has moved behind the dish and done so admirably — per his coach. Engeseth said due to a lack of catchers on the roster, the sophomore was somewhat forced into the position, but despite a bit of a lack of familiarity has stepped-up and has — over time — come into his own and gotten better every day.
Engeseth also mentioned Afton Milton, Alex Mannen and Brendan Couture as players who have led the team to this point, and added that despite some early struggles at the plate, he expects all of the aforementioned to pick it up as the season races to an end.
"I don't think they're in full form yet," he said. "But they've been putting in the time and I expect to see that turnaround at the plate. And defensively, I couldn't ask for anything more than what they've been giving. They play the right way, and they play hard."
The coach said the same could be said about the entire team.
"I think this team has a lot of heart and a lot of desire," Engeseth said. "That's what we're most excited about. It's a team that you can really see loves the game, and everyone in that dugout enjoys baseball."
That enthusiasm hasn't always equated to wins however. The Vikings are 4-5 on the season with victories over league foes Century and Liberty, with a nonleague win over Madison to start the year. They suffered through a tough stretch in week 2, dropping four straight to undefeated Sherwood and arch rival McMinnville. But Engeseth knows that while getting better every day, the real key to this year's team getting better will be how they navigate the coming months of summer and fall baseball prior to next season.
"Getting time back on the field after COVID is important, and it's valuable for sure," the coach said. "But with a lot of these kids going into other sports (basketball and wrestling) to end the school year, we really hope these strides aren't for not. We want our kids to be multi-sport athletes, but at the same time we want this group to stay together and play together as much as possible.
"We're really excited about this young group, but they need to understand the potential in front of them and the extra time it will take to reach it."
Century's Owen Edgar, Niko Rosell, Sam Thomas, and Tyler Mahlman all tallied hits for the Jaguars in defeat.
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