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Indians baseball team keeps some games close, but continues looking for more hits

PMG FILE PHOTO: JIM BESEDA - Breeler Mann of Scappoose had two hits in the team's series opener at home against La Salle Prep.One team was in a nice groove. The other was still trying to make its move.

La Salle Prep and Scapppose — at opposite ends of the Northwest Oregon Conference baseball standings — seemingly weren't that far apart as they opened a three-game series on Tuesday at Scappoose.

But La Salle Prep was the aggressor, the more efficient team — and the winner, 6-1. The Falcons used the tidy pitching of senior Perry Collman and some airtight defense to collect their sixth win in seven league outings.

The following day, the Falcons won again over the Indians, this time 13-2 in five innings at La Salle Prep.

Thus, going into their Thursday finale of a three-game series, the Falcons were 7-1 in the NWOC while Scappoose was 0-5 in league play and 1-12 overall, with 12 consecutive losses.

All this has left first-year Indians coach Cameron Webb as determined a ever to keep his team upbeat and looking to make strides. Scappoose has showed some good signs along with the ability to play with teams in various aspects of the game — it's mostly now a matter of sharpening the execution, but even more so of coming out with more of an attacking mindset and then finishing the job.

"We had two one-run losses to (NWOC leader) Putnam that came down to the seventh inning," Webb said. "We're doing some good things. We'll always find a reason to be positive. And, if you can't think of anything else, you can always say, 'Tomorrow's a new day.'"

The Indians' chief problem might be their struggle to produce runs, especially early in games. Scappoose went into Thursday having scored 22 runs in 13 games (and 16 in the past 12, since the season-opening 6-2 victory over South Albany).

The Indians managed just four hits, all singles, in the first game of the La Salle Prep series. Two of the hits came off the bat of senior Breeler Mann.

In Game 2, the Indians had just two hits (including a home run by senior Jordan Buchanan).

The Falcons didn't slug the cover off the ball, either, in Game 1. They mustered just six hits, including one double. But when they got on base, they attempted double steals and other maneuvers. That didn't always work — Scappoose caught a couple of Falcons attempting to score on three- and four-defensive player rundowns — but sometimes the aggressiveness did pay off.

"It was good to see us execute some rundowns; it shows we're doing things we've worked on in practice," Webb said. "But a lot of times the good luck goes to the more aggressive team, so maybe we need to put a little more pressure on other teams and see if we can get a few plays to go our way. That and get the bats going. We really haven't had that yet. We just need to approach each game with confidence."

Scappoose's run in Tuesday's game came when senior Connor McNabb, also a sprinter in track, got a leadoff single, beating out a sixth-inning infield dribbler, went to second on a ground out, stole third base and then scampered home when the Falcons threw the ball into left field trying to get him a third.

"We onlyk get Connor like once a week, but he makes an impact on the bases. You make an aggressive play, and they throw the ball away," Webb observed.

Scappoose's pitching has been respectable or better this season, and the outlook for the staff improved Tuesday with the return of junior Logan Travis to starting duty.

Travis, the team's potential ace, had made only two brief relief appearances this season because of injuries to a hip and his groin. The Indians held him to a pitch count on Tuesday, and he left after four innings and 82 pitches, having allowed three hits and three runs, with four strikeouts but also four walks and three hit batters.

He'd no doubt like to be sharper, but that fine-tuning figures to come.

"He's a competitor. He expects a lot out of himself," Webb said. "So on a day like today he was frustrated with himself at times."

The Indians had a couple bright spots out of the bullpen on Tuesday, though. Junior Jake Bernhard and senior Brendyn Nollette, who both had pitched only a couple of times this year, held La Salle Prep scoreless over the final two innings. Nollette came on in the seventh with the bases loaded and one out and proceeded to get La Salle Prep's Nos. 4 and 5 hitters out on a pop to shortstop and grounder to third — on three pitches total.

The Falcons, who then homered and produced 15 hits on Wednesday, were simply too solid in both games. Their infield turned two double plays in Tuesday's win, and they picked off two Indian runners.

"They just play real fundamental baseball," Webb said. "They don't blow you away. But their pitcher (Collman) got ahead of almost every hitter and was throwing off-speed stuff for strikes, which kept us off-balance. He located the ball down in the zone, and their defense made all the plays behind him. That's a good recipe."

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