The Spartans defeat the Broncos 24-0 for third straight Northwest Oregon Conference win.

STAFF PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER OERTELL - Senior Myles Littlejohn throws to first during the Spartans' game against Parkrose April 11 at Hare Field.It's been a long journey, but the Hillsboro Spartan baseball team is starting to hit their stride.

After nine consecutive nonleague losses to start the year, including four against exceptional competition at the Pride Classic in Arizona over spring break, Hilhi has won three straight to start the Northwest Oregon Conference schedule and is starting to apply some of the hard lessons they've learned over a month worth of on-the-job training.

"We had a decent vacation," said a chuckling Hilhi head coach Bob Berent. "But baseball-wise we played some really good competitive teams, saw some really good pitching, and we learned a lot about ourselves and what we need to be if we want to be a good team."

Berent isn't shy about acknowledging his team's shortcomings to begin the year, but he's also quick to point out his and his team's effort to remedy them. Yes, it's been a bumpy road to this point, but it's due to such that he feels their improvement is worthy of now higher expectations.

"We didn't win a preseason game and there was a lot of learning on the way, but I'm hoping that prepared us for league," the coach said. "Our league schedule seems to get better and better as it goes, so hopefully when it's all said and done we'll be in a position to make the playoffs. Then this stuff will have been worth it."

STAFF PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER OERTELL - Hilhi's Brock Leglar takes a cut during the Spartans' game against Parkrose April 11 at Hare Field.On this day, April 11, the Spartans made not-so-quick work of a struggling Parkrose team, tallying 20 — that's right — first inning runs over nearly two hours en route to a 24-0 win over the Broncos in three-and-a-half innings of play. But while this game was more about a struggling visitor, Berent was still happy with how his team performed against an opponent unfortunately in over their head.

"Our pitchers threw strikes and we got some guys that don't see a lot of action some reps," Berent said. "Also, we got a chance to do some things at the plate, and the guys hit the ball hard."

Parkrose pitchers struggled to throw strikes, and when they did get it over the plate, Hillsboro put the ball in play for either a hit or a subsequent Bronco error, resulting in a rough night a Parkrose group — that to their credit — never gave up.

"One thing about Parkrose is that they're picking each other up, and that shows a lot," said Berent. "It was tough out there for them, but they stayed in it, and even our guys can learn from that."

So what else have the Spartans learned over a month of losses and now a series of wins? Their coach has seen improvement regarding timing and approach at the plate, as well as simply throwing strikes from the mound. Early-on, Berent said his guys were waiting on hard throwing pitching rather than anticipating prior to delivery, which ultimately led to hesitation and failure to get their bats around. Also, he's had to convince his hurlers to throw strikes and trust their defense, rather than risk walks due to a fear of being hit.

"A lot of guys on our team can throw strikes, and sometimes you'll get hit, but that's alright," said the coach. "I'd rather work from that perspective than from one around walks."

He's also seen his squad's confidence grow, which has helped them believe in the face of inevitable adversity the game of baseball often presents.

"When things start going wrong, this team earlier was expecting things to get worse," Berent said. "But now we're getting some belief and hopefully that builds into something going forward."

Hillsboro's remaining games this week have been cancelled due to rain, but the Spartans are scheduled to play Parkrose again April 17 and host La Salle as part of a three-game set starting Wednesday, April 18.

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