Pickles left frustrated again
All it took was one run for the Portland Pickles to drop their sixth game in a row on Saturday night, as they fell 1-0 to the Yakima Valley Pippins at Walker Stadium.
In the top of the eighth inning, Yakima shortstop Tanner Parker (Middle Tennessee State) lined an RBI double to bring in left fielder Eddy Pelc (University of San Diego).
Portland had just three hits (Yakima Valley managed only four), and the Pickles standed 10 runners.
"Our guys just have to play, man," Pickles coach Justin Barchus said. "I felt like we had a pretty good lineup out there today and weren't even able to be competitive for most of the game."
Portland is 9-18 overall in the West Coast League and 0-1 in the second half. Yakima Valley is 12-15, 1-0.
Portland's Nicolas Lopez (0-1), a 6-4 left-hander who will be a freshman at Stanford, pitched the eighth and allowed two hits.
Yakima Valley's Jack Gonzales (1-0, Dixie State) struck out four with two hits allowed in 2.1 innings.
Neither team got a hit until the fifth inning.
The first scoring opportunity for the Pickles came in the third, though, when catcher Darius Perry (UCLA commit) was hit by a pitch and advanced to third base with two out. Portland center fielder John Jensen (UC Irvine) then struck out.
The Pickles had their final chance in the ninth. With right fielder Chase Lutrell (Long Beach State) on third and infielder Brendan Power (Tulane) pinch-running on second, third baseman Austin Lively (Seattle University) struck out looking, slamming his bat on home plate in frustration.
"I'm frustrated with myself," Lively said. "I let the officials dictate the game. I didn't swing the bat once, and that's on me. Maybe I just got caught up in the moment, but I need to be better in a situation like that."
Four Portland pitchers struck out nine batters and walked three. Brad McVay (University of Portland, ex-Milwaukie High) shined as the, giving up one hit through five innings, with three strikeouts.
"They're pretty free swingers, so I was just trying to locate early and get them to roll over, which they did a lot," McVay said. "I'm mainly thinking edge of the plate, don't really look at the catcher or the batter, getting in a rhythm. Don't aim, because when I aim I get in trouble."
Barchus agreed that the pitching and defense (one error) looked great, but he made it known that those aspects will take the Pickles only so far.
"The pitching was fantastic, the defense was solid," Barchus said. "That's the kind of baseball we're used to playing around here on the defensive side. But it doesn't matter how good you play over there if you can't score."
The Pickles struck out 14 times (with four walks) as a variety of breaking balls caught them off guard. Ryan Jameson (Cal Poly) was dominant on the mound, with 10 strikeouts and one hit allowed in 6.2 innings.
"You've got to tip your cap to Jameson," Barchus said. "The unique thing about him was he changed up hallway through the game, about the fifth inning, and he started pitching backwards and throwing curveballs for strikes whenever he wanted to, and that became really effective for him."
"It's just on us to be able to recognize the off-speed and not letting their pitching dictate how we're going to hit," Lively said. "We have to stick to our game plan and stay on track."
Portland struggled mightily in the first half of the WCL season, going 9-17. The 17 losses were as many as the team had all last season.
The second half continues with a 7 p.m. Saturday game, and the series will conclude with a 5 p.m. Sunday game at Walker Stadium.
"The coaching staff knows it's the start of the second half, but I don't know if the players necessarily feel revitalized for it being the second half," Barchus said. "I think they need to just feel the feeling of winning and start playing well."
Portland plays a doubleheader on Saturday, their second twinbill in three nights. They'll face off against the Hayesville Hammers, an independent team based in Salem, in a 1 p.m. exhibition.
Barchus said the grind has affected his team's stamina, especially after playing seven consecutive games on the road from June 25 through July 3.
"We're tired," Barchus said. "It's tough, and nobody else in the league does it, but that's what we're tasked with, so we can't control that. We've just got to show up and try to play hard."
In the end, the Pickles just haven't played thei best ball.
"We've got good players playing bad," Barchus said. "We're frustrated with how this game ended, but you've just got to keep fighting and clawing. There's no other choice."
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