Hot (baseball) fun in the summertime
A busy summer figures to have the Scappoose Indians springing forward as a high school baseball team next season.
Last week, the Indians wrapped up their Oregon Independent Baseball Association seasons — at both the varsity and "Futures" levels — by competing in OIBA postseason tournaments.
Scappoose's top-level team took Sandy into the seventh inning at host Putnam before giving up nine runs and falling 19-7 in the first round of the single-elimination tourney.
And the Scappoose "Futures" team, comprised of younger players mostly headed for junior-varsity play next spring, gave Mt. Hood Select Gold an early run before losing 11-2 in the first round at Centennial High.
But just making it to the playoffs — and competing hard through 25 or so games for both teams this summer — made it a successful endeavor for both Scappoose squads, said coach Cameron Webb, who took over the Indians' program before last prep season.
The Indians' top squad pulled off a couple of memorable, signature victories down the stretch, knocking off Lincoln and Reynolds.
But Webb said the wins weren't what really made the summer work important and productive.
"We really got a lot better every day," he said. "The guys played more as a team, with more focus.
"At the end of the summer, it seemed like they were enjoying themselves and were working hard and doing it together as one unit. That was all really encouraging to me.
"It was a really positive summer. And we're going to come back next (high school) season so much better prepared."
The key players this summer, in no particular order, included Brett Krieger, Ben Anicker, Thomas Greiner, Jake Bernhard, Luke McNabb, Jack Duschka, Andrew Darco, Tyler Souvenir, Noah Packineau, Matt Wallin, Wyatt Anicker and Malcolm Harrison.
McNabb, who will be a sophomore, hit a team-high .390, and had the lowest ERA (2.55), pitching 17 innings.
Krieger, who will be a junior, was right behind at .372, with a big lead among the Indians in RBIs (17).
"He goes up to bat so locked in, with a purpose every time," Webb said. "Any pitch that comes to him he's looking to crush."
Krieger pitched a lot, too, as the team rotated numerous arms.
"He's one of our biggest, strongest guys," Webb said. "He was in the state tournament in wrestling and played football and is a super hard worker in the weight room."
Greiner, who will be a senior, batted .360 and paced Scappoose with a .500 on-base percentage. He was a regular on the hill as well and started the playoff game.
Bernhard hit .308 and led the team with five extra-base hits.
"Jake will be one of our few returning seniors," Webb noted, "and he's a really selfless guy who sets a great tone with the younger players."
Anicker had a .282 average and was a mound mainstay while spending time also on a Mound Time club team.
Souvenir was "great behind the plate," Webb said, as a junior-to-be catcher, and "had some promising outings" on the mound.
The Indians played in one regular-season tourney, and made their mark in their first game (July 12) of the three-day affair at Columbia River High in Vancouver, Washington. They knocked off Lincoln 5-4, overcoming a 4-1 deficit with one run in the sixth inning and three in the seventh.
Scappoose then lost to the eventual tournament champions, Columbia River, 11-0, and to Sunset, 4-0, but Webb said he thought his team played well in both defeats.
After a 13-5 loss to Banks on July 16, the Indians pulled away from home field Reynolds for a 15-3 triumph on July 20. That was one of only four league games that counted in the division standings, so it was a valuable win.
"It was really big," Webb said.
The Indians and Reynolds were tied 2-2 after one inning, but Scappoose scored five runs in the top of the second and added four runs in the third to go up 11-3.
They went on to win by run-rule in six innings, with clean-up man Krieger collecting three hits and six RBIs, Bernhard getting three hits and two RBIs in the leadoff spot and Greiner holding Reynolds to two earned runs in 5.1 innings, with six strikeouts.
"It was really great to see our offense clicking. Cumulatively, that was the best bats we had all summer. Reynolds is not a bad team," Webb said.
The Lincoln game might have been the best of the summer in terms of dramatics.
Scappoose got one run in the top of the first, as McNabb walked and Krieger hit an RBI double over the right fielder's head.
Lincoln scored three runs in the first and one in the second — but Souvenir's defense kept the Cardinals from getting farther ahead. He threw out runners at both third and second base in the second inning.
Greiner was a star against Lincoln, coming in to pitch the final five innings. He needed only 50 pitches and allowed just two hits — and no runs.
"He came in with a runner on first and nobody out," Webb said, "and he got the first batter he faced to pop up back to him and threw to first for a double play, and then the next guy he got out on four pitches."
Scappoose pulled to within 4-2 with its run in the sixth. Souvenir walked and went all the way to third on a slow roller to third base by Krieger. "Tyler was stealing and saw there was no one covering third, so he rounded second hard and made it to third as Brett beat out the throw," Webb said. The Indians then scored on a double-steal play.
"At that point, our whole team was bought in and believing we were going to come back and win it," Webb said. "We were the aggressors and at that point playing with a lot of intensity and had a lot of confidence. Even if we had not come back, I would have been really proud of the guys for the brand of baseball we were playing."
But come back, they did.
In the top of the seventh, Lincoln's pitcher began to have some control issues. With the score tied at 4-4 and the bases loaded, Krieger was hit by a pitch.
Still, the Indians needed to retire the Cardinals in the seventh to preserve their 5-4 lead.
"I had told Thomas before the top of the seventh, 'Once we come back and take the lead, you get to close this thing down,'" Webb said.
Greiner hit the first Lincoln batter in the bottom of the seventh, but after a sacrifice bunt, he got out No. 2 on a comebacker and then struck out the next Cardinal on three pitches.
"The big thing was Thomas wasn't afraid of the moment," Webb said. "And I think a big reason we were able to come back was our guys just had great energy all game. It seemed like our guys had a lot of confidence, and we were playing loose and free. The whole dugout was locked into it.
"It was a pretty cool game, really exciting, a lot of fun. We beat a very good team," said Webb, who was an assistant coach at Lincoln for four years and played for the Cards.
Webb said the trip to Columbia River was good because "in a tournament the games matter more, so there is a different atmosphere and more of a regular-season feel, and we played against really good teams. And it was a good experience, too, because it was a wood-bat tournament, so you end up having to play a lot of small ball. Like, against Sunset, both Packineau and Wallin executed sacrifice bunts that gave us a chance to score."
The steady improved Scappoose's teams showed this summer should pay dividends several months down the road.
"Overall, I'm really happy," Webb said. "Even when things were going wrong, the guys picked each other up and stayed focused. And our defense overall played so much better — that was one thing that really hurt us last spring, being inconsistent in the field. But this summer, defense kept us in games."
The defense didn't have its best day in the Indians' playoff game with the Sandy Giants, but Sandy went on to beat Hillsboro 8-4 and Clackamas 9-2 to reach the OIBA finals, where it lost 9-4 to Lakeridge.
"That was not a very clean game — we did not play well defensively — but our pitching was very good and offensively we did enough to keep ourselves in the game," Webb said. "Thomas did a great job of keeping his composure on the mound and got a couple of shutout innings, and Luke then came in and pitched well."
The Indians, after giving up five runs in the first inning, scored five in the third to tie Sandy at 5-5.
Base running — a point of emphasis all summer for Scappoose — helped spark that early rally.
"We had some good base running in that inning," Webb said.
As for the defensive mistakes, "as long as those are things we can learn from, it's nothing to worry about," Webb said.
Between now and March 2020, and as it fits around the other obligations of those Indians participating in fall and/or winter sports, the Scappoose baseball players will find time for individual work. There will be plenty of batting in the cage in the gym or outside, so the Indians baseball team can hit the ground running next spring.
"I'm excited for the offseason work," Webb said. "A lot of our kids play multiple sports which we encourage because we think it makes them better athletes and competitors, but we will do a lot of individual baseball work."
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