The Bucks clobber East Linn Christian and Santiam after disheartening a 10-9 home loss to Regis

SETH GORDON - Holden Smith slides into home plate during St. Paul's 10-9 home loss to Regis April 18. The Bucks bounced back from the setback with wins over East Linn Christian and Santiam to improve to 5-2 in Tri-River Conference play.

Every once in a while, when things just don't seem to be working, St. Paul baseball coach Julio Vela will have his team go through a bit of a ritual called "waking up the bats."

The team simply takes the bats and throws them out of the dugout while yelling at them, you know, to wake them up.

And while the offense wasn't an issue in a disappointing 10-9 home loss to Regis on April 18 that saw the Bucks give up a late three-run lead, things were just a little too somber at practice the next day for Vela's liking, so he felt his team needed to do some purging.

Vela had the team throw everything out of the dugout and judging by how the team played in blowout wins over East Linn Christian and Santiam, it seems to have worked.

"We just grabbed helmets and balls and just tossed 'em out on to the field and said, 'We're done. It's purged,' like it's out of our system, so let's practice, let's move forward," Vela said. "And it was a super positive practice after that. By the time we left that night everybody was feeling good and loose. Then we went out Friday and just played a great game."

Neither the Bucks nor the Regis Rams were particularly sharp in the April 18 contest, but St. Paul appeared to take control after putting up three runs in the bottom of the fifth inning.

Following a lead-off single by Jaidyn Jackson, Zach Brentano laid down a bunt and reached safely after the second baseman was unable to corral the throw at first base, which allowed Jackson to score and make it 5-4 St. Paul. T.J. Crawford later added a sacrifice fly and Reed Overfield scored on an error to make it 7-4.

Unfortunately, the Rams answered with six runs in the top of the sixth to pull ahead 10-7.

"We had an untimely error and it's one of those baseball things that piles up on itself," Vela said. "It was tough to make up."

The Bucks got one run back in the bottom of the sixth and then Justin Herberger tripled to open the seventh, later scoring on a Campbell Smith single to make it 10-9.

Rawley Koch got the St. Paul bench on its feet with a hard hit ball on the next at bat, but it went directly to an infielder, making for an easy double-play at first base. The Bucks did manage to get another runner on base, but couldn't push him across. For the game, St. Paul left 13 runners on base.

"It was almost like who would be standing last," Vela said. "We were right there at the end. We gathered at the start of the seventh inning and there wasn't a doubt in my mind that we could score three or four runs that inning. We were in the right part of the lineup and we hit the ball very hard, but lining into a double play, that's a tough one."

Following the upbeat practice Thursday, the Bucks were hot out of the gate Friday versus the Eagles, batting through the order in the first inning to take a 3-0 lead. They added four runs in the second and seven in the third to go up 14-0 before coasting to a 14-4 victory. Herberger broke through in a big way, going three-for-three with a double, triple, 6 RBIs and three runs scored.

"They were ready to play and hit it very well," Vela said.

Vela added that the team was so positive after reviewing the win during the bus ride home that it volunteered to practice again Saturday night.

That carried over to Monday's home contest versus Santiam, as the Bucks carved out an 8-1 win.

Herberger took the mound, allowing one run on two hits with two walks and 13 strikeouts in a complete game performance. Herberger also went three-for-three at the plate, with Campbell Smith and Holden Smith driving in two runs apiece.

St. Paul (9-2, 5-2) sits in second place in the Tri-River Conference but won't return to action until Friday, when they travel to play Country Christian (2-10, 2-4).

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