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The Bucks ride a five-game losing streak into league playoffs Wednesday versus Portland Christian

GRAPHIC PHOTO: GARY ALLEN
 - St. Paul suffered a pair of losses in a doubleheader Thursday against Portland Christian at home.

After injuries to a number of key players throughout the 2019 season, St. Paul baseball prepares for league playoffs Wednesday with an eye on getting back on track. The Bucks (13-13 overall, 8-10 Special District 1) have lost five consecutive games and face Portland Christian in the first round of the SD1 league playoffs.

Coach Dwayne Nowlin said the Bucks had four, five, sometimes six contributors out with injury this season. Among those were senior Zach Brentano, senior Rawley Koch – who had elbow surgery, junior Steven Coppola, senior Jaidyn Jackson – who dislocated his shoulder, and a handful of other players dinged by other injuries.

"We're just so banged up," Nowlin said. "Kids have had elbow surgery, shoulder injuries and it's just been kind of a nightmare for these guys. We're healthy now, though, for the most part, and ready for league playoffs."The Buckaroos scored nine runs in the first game of a doubleheader versus Portland Christian on Thursday, but it wasn't enough as the Lions tallied 14 runs in both the first and second games to relegate St. Paul to 8-10 in 2A/1A Special District 1 play, 13-13 overall and 24th in the OSAA rankings.

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Portland Christian will be no easy task for the Bucks as they navigate the postseason after a struggle down the stretch of league play. They plan to start their best pitcher in that game and – Nowlin hopes – do enough to advance and play No. 3 seed Nestucca. The Bucks are the No. 5 seed and Portland Christian is No. 4.

"We're going to start (senior) Justin Herberger, one of the best pitchers in the state, which gives us a great chance," Nowlin said. "Everybody is going to be able to play in the first game Wednesday and we'll go from there."

It's win or go home for the Bucks on Wednesday. A run through the league playoffs is possible, Nowlin said, but they are taking it one game at a time.

The close nature of St. Paul's losses gives Nowlin optimism that they can make a run. So too does their competitive bouts with and previous victories over teams seeded above them. Against the top teams, St. Paul had stretches of excellence when it was healthy, he said.

"I feel so bad for these boys," Nowlin said. "If you look at our scores, every game we lose for the most part has been close with the exception of Portland Christian. It's just taken a toll on the boys. We gave them a couple days off to rest and recover and we're going to try to refresh come Wednesday."

The Bucks play their opening round game against Portland Christian at 5 p.m. at Pacific University in Forest Grove. St. Paul will play Nestucca 30 minutes after on the same field if it wins the first game.

Offensive production will be crucial, Nowlin said, if the Bucks want to keep their season alive. Despite struggles down the stretch, the team is relatively healthy, so Nowlin believes anything is possible for this group led by seven seniors.

"We've got to score runs against Portland Christian," he said. "They've shown us that they can hit the ball. It's going to be a different story because we're throwing Herberger at them and not our four, five or six guy, and they have one kid who throws the ball really well."

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