Boys of summer to men of spring.
That's the aim of coach Cameron Webb and those involved in Scappoose High baseball.
Webb, whose first year as Indians coach was this past spring, has been able to launch not one but two summer teams of Scappoose athletes in the Oregon Independent Baseball Association.
The OIBA and Futures League teams, essentially like a varsity and junior varsity, hope to wind up getting in about 25 games each this summer.
"About the same as in the spring," Webb says.
And, in a way, those games could be doubly worth it in a sport where the Indians, while not far off, are playing catch-up with schools whose ball players have had a lot more time in the diamond in their formative years.
The Indians' need to get up to speed — as well as their potential — showed in some games this week. Their OIBA team lost 8-1 at home to Gladstone on Tuesday, then played host to Barlow on Wednesday.
Those games had several highlight moments, offensively and defensively, but also some miscues and missed opportunities.
But summer is the time when the mistakes have purpose, too. Like, as Webb pointed out, in left field against Gladstone. In the first inning, the Indians' Andrew Darco, who will be a sophomore next school, racing forward and trying to snare a line drive but not quite getting there — but in the fifth inning, attacking another liner and making an ESPN SportsCenter-type sliding catch.
"I told him we were happy with that try in the first inning, that we want that aggressiveness — that's how you learn your range," Webb said. "You learn by pushing yourself to your limit. Later in the game, he was able to make that big play.
"So we're never going to be upset with a guy for making an aggressive mistake."
And the Indians will take a few chances here and there. Like in the fifth against Gladstone, when big sophomore-to-be Luke McNabb made a dash to second base on an attempted steal and was called out (on a close play that might have been overturned with replay).
"Maybe in a spring game, you don't have Luke steal there with no outs," Webb said, "but that's what summer is all about, pushing yourself and rolling with it, either way."
Things didn't roll Scappoose's way early in the Gladstone game, as a couple of errors helped the Gladiators take control. The Glads scored three runs in the first, two in the second and two in the thidr to lead 8-0.
But the Indians settled down, kept plugging away and turned the Gladiators away in their last three at-bats, with McNabb holding them to two hits while inducing six ground ball outs.
"He was great, throwing hard, both his fastball and curveball for strikes he he has all summer, so that's exciting," Webb said.
Defensively, one ill-advised throw trying to nail a Gladstone runner at second base got away in the outfield as the Gladiators cleared the bases in the third inning.
"Early in the game, we had a couple plays we could have made and didn't," Webb said. "We've just got to make sure we know the situation all the time. We're talking about how in baseball the way you show your competitiveness is by making sure you have constant focus. That's something every team needs to work on, so we'll keep improving on that.
"But I was happy to see that even after some things didn't do right early, the guys were able to turn the focus up and stay in the game.
"We made a lot of good plays late in the game."
Shortstop Jack Duschka, who will be a sophomore, was solid fielding in his area.
In the bottom of the fifth, the Indians got on the board. Malcolm Harrison, another sophomore-to-be, led off with a double to left field, and McNabb drove him home with a hard rap up the middle that went off the Gladstone pitcher's foot and caromed into center field.
Ben Anicker, who will return to the varsity next spring as a senior, had two hits in the game and with two out in the fifth raced non-stop for a triple.
"He did a great job hustling hard out of the box," Webb said.
Plays like that were why Webb was able to say at the end: "It's exciting with this younger group."
And, those things happened despite it being the Indians' first game in about a week and a half; the previous week, baseball gave way to a football camp.
Next for the Scappoose OIBA team is one of its few games that will count in the league standings. It's slated for 6 p.m. against Southridge at Scappoose.
The Indians will play each team in their OIBA division once, so their other league games are set for July 9 at Putnam, July 18 at home against Gresham and July 20 at Reynolds.
Even with those, "it's all about development," Webb said.
Which will continue in the offseason and leading into next spring.
Webb figures his Indians "will get a lot better over the summer, and in the fall and winter we'll be able to do a lot of individual work inside, in the cage. We'll work on swings, stuff like that ... but it's hard to replicate the real baseball experience, so summer is when you want to get a lot of games under your belt, get used to being in game stiuations and get used to playing with each other.
"You get game experience doing the little stuff like covering first on a ground ball to the right side.
"Then there's all the mentality stuff you develop over the summer, too — the guys being able to maintain a posiive mentality and focus when things aren't going well.
"As long we you can do those things, I think we're going to set ourselves up well for next season."
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