Lions baseball looks ahead to big Scappoose series
As a St. Helens High graduate and a former player, Jeff Timmons knows what it takes to compete against Scappoose.
As the head coach of the Lions, he knows there's no better test for a ball club than playing in the "Seven Mile War," which tends to bring out the best in both programs.
The ability to bounce back from adverse situations, to carry on the fight in the face of frustrating circumstances and find success is maybe more important than any skill set. The squad Timmons is shepherding now is still budding into a team that needs to be accounted for from week-to-week. But there's no quit in this group, no white-flag waving, even when games seemingly get away on the scoreboard. That includes guys such as sophomore Cody McKay who sprint up the first-base line even when a game is basically put to bed and scrape a run across, who keep playing all-out.
It's a badge of honor Timmons wants his players to wear proudly and carry with them in the critical upcoming three-game set with Scappoose that starts 5 p.m. Tuesday at St. Helens.
"We're fighting, we're staying in it, we're not giving it up or flicking it in," Timmons said of the Lions, 1-13 overall and 0-6 in the Northwest Oregon Conference. "That's the one thing that's been great. I think that's a big thing for us in the future and in the long run. There's no give up in a lot of these guys. They're all out there trying from inning one to inning seven. Sometimes I feel we have more effort and better effort at the end of a game than we do at the beginning. I'd like to see that effort the entire game."
The NWOC standings alone dictate a substantial week ahead for both clubs. Factor in that this is the first time in decades the two rivals will play each other three consecutive times, and it makes for a blockbuster series.
Scappoose and St. Helens have faced off in nonleague action just once since 2013, back when the Indians were in Class 4A. With the Indians' move this school year to 5A comes a fun renewal of a rivalry that was dormant for far too long.
"It's the real deal," Timmons said. "A lot of these kids haven't had that until now. It's going to be good for us. It didn't matter who was better and who was worse. It's a battle every time. I've always had a ton of respect for Scappoose. Every time you go down there it's tough to play against them. A lot of our kids have known each for so long or played together or against each other when they were younger. They know these kids, they talk to these kids. It's a lot of fun."
The second game of the series will be at Scappoose at 5 p.m. Wednesday. The finale will be at St. Helens at 5 p.m. Friday, April 26.
Scappoose was 0-5 in NWOC play and 1-12 through Wednesday and should be equally hungry for victories. Whichever team wins two of three or sweeps can get back in the hunt for a playoff bid.
St. Helens senior pitcher Jacob Klein had his best start of the year last week against Wilsonville, which Timmons said is a positive omen for the rest of league play. Sophomore Kaleb Edwards has broken out as one of best pitchers on St. Helens' staff. Fellow sophomores such as McKay and Jacobi Allen have made deeper impressions so far as well. Juniors Jackson Hald and Garrett Harris and senior Justin Olson are hitting the ball better and with more authority at the plate.
"I told our boys if we can take care of business from here on out with the teams we have left and take two of three from each series we have a good shot at sneaking into that fourth (playoff) spot," Timmons said.
St. Helens will go into the Scappoose series opener not having played in 11 days, since losing to Wilsonville 12-2 on April 12. During the break, Timmons and his staff reemphasized hitting the ball to the opposite field and harped on some of the day-one fundamentals as a refresher. Timmons also gave the players a day off to clear their minds and get away from the game. Such a hiatus from game action might be a detriment to an older, more experienced team that abides by routine. But with a young crew that needs extra instruction, the break was beneficial.
"I think it helped us get reenergized and refocused," Timmons said.