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BY KYLE GARCIA/PORTLAND TRIBUNE/'We're playing bad baseball. There's no sugarcoating it,' Portland coach says

PMG PHOTO: KYLE GARCIA - Titus Groeneweg delivers a pitch for the Portland Pickles during Sunday's 3-0 loss to the Bend Elks at Walker Stadium.Before 2,387 fans on a sunny Father's Day at Walker Stadium, the Portland Pickles were swept by the Bend Elks.

Sunday's 3-0 loss left Portland (4-8) fifth in the six-team West Coast League South Division. The Pickles are 3-6 against division opponents.

Portland coach Justin Barchus didn't mince words after the game.

"We're playing bad baseball," Barchus said. "There's no sugarcoating it."

Sunday's game was a 0-0, defensive battle through four innings, with the teams combining for three hits.

The Elks (5-4 and third in the division) scored all the runs in the fifth, when they had four of their seven hits.

Winning pitcher Nick Hernandez (1-0) struck out five batters in five innings.

The second of four Portland pitchers, Santa Ana College's Joel Casillas (0-1), allowed three runs in 3.1 innings.

Barchus said he was impressed with how Casillas battled after the tough fifth inning.

"What I was really happy with was that he calmed down and pulled it back together for two innings," Barchus said.

Pickles starter Titus Groeneweg was solid. The left-hander from Cal State Fullerton pitched four innings, giving up two hits and no walks, with five strikeouts.

"I try to get ahead with my fastball and throw my off-speed pitches for strikes," Groeneweg said. "I try to move quick because it keeps the whole defense in the game."

But the Pickles' only hits were singles by Kyle Manzardo (Washington State) and Chase Luttrell (Long Beach State).

Portland scored 10 runs in Friday's series opener, but got only two on Saturday.

The Pickles are batting .188 this season, with one home run and 43 runs in 12 games.

"We hit the ball hard a couple of times (Sunday), but we're not consistent with our solid contact," Barchus said. "We're hoping and wishing instead of knowing it's inevitable that (balls) going to fall."

Portland's next series starts Tuesday and is on the road against the Walla Walla Sweets, who have the best record (8-1) in the WCL. The Sweets were undefeated until Sunday, when they blew a 7-0 lead and lost 11-10 at the Wenatchee AppleSox.

Walla Walla outfielder Patrick Caufield was named WCL player of the week for June 4-9. He's batting .474, second in the league — behind teammate Justin Folz (.484).

Walla Walla is hitting .292 and has scored 67 runs in nine games. The Sweets also have allowed only 43 runs.

"They've been playing really good baseball, and I don't think they have all their guys yet," Barchus said.

Portland hitting coach Mark Magdaleno, who recently was interim head coach while Barchus sat out three games due to complications from knee surgery, said a Pickles breakthrough is imminent.

"We're closer than people think," Magdaleno said. "We're starting to get some guys in, some guys are getting healthy. We're real close, and within a week or so you're going to see us playing a lot different baseball."

"I feel like were close," Groeneweg said. "I think pitching wise we're really strong, offensively we're going to start clicking."

Barchus said his team simply needs to start playing better.

"We're not competitive, and we're not putting ourselves in a position to win games," he said. "We're going to come back on Tuesday and do the best we can and try to put a lineup out that's going to help us win games."

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