Monday, April 18, 2011/lk
With the non-league season over, the only games left for the Hood River Valley baseball team are games that count.
Their coach hoped that message sunk in Monday.
The Eagles lost their third straight game to close out their non-league schedule, a 4-3 defeat to Union of Vancouver, Wash.
On Saturday, HRV lost to Skyview, also of Vancouver, 6-5 in extra innings.
On Friday they were beaten 7-0 by Summit of Bend.
The Summit game aside, all that stood between wins by the Eagles over two of the best teams in Washington were a series of small mistakes on execution.
"We're at the point we're if we make mental mistakes, we have to adjust mid-game," HRV coach Erich Harjo said. "We won't survive in this league if we make mistakes."
The Eagles fell behind 4-0 early to Union but rallied to get within 4-3 in the third off Union starter Whalen Seaver.
Seaver had cruised through the HRV lineup in the first two innings, but the Eagles broke through with five straight hits.
Eric McNerney singled home Lucio Alaniz with two outs in the inning to cut the gap to one, but Parker Sherrell was thrown at third to end the inning.
After HRV starter Tanner Riley struggled through three innings, Alaniz came in and went three innings of shutout relief to keep the Eagles in the game.
Union threatened to score insurance runs off Cody Walker in the seventh when they put runners at second and third with one out; however, Walker snared a comebacker on the next batter and threw out Skyler Frasier trying to score.
Frasier bowled over HRV catcher Kyle Beam at the plate, but Beam hung on to the ball for the out.
In the bottom of the inning, Gabi Nunos legged out an infield single with one out, but was left stranded there after a pop out and a ground out.
Against Skyview Saturday the Eagles rallied back on a Sherrell home run and David Gibson tied it in the seventh with a two-run double.
In the ninth, with the Eagles trailing by one, Sherrell hit another long drive to right field that was caught at the wall and turned into a double play at first with Kyle Beam running on the play.
In the huddle after the Union game, Harjo told his team they can't be happy with moral victories and playing good teams close, and need to raise their expectation level.
"We've had good ball clubs come in and we've played them hard," Harjo said. 'We just have to do the little things - we have to."
The Eagles now go from a tough non-league schedule to an even tougher league slate with only games against Pendleton, Hermiston and The Dalles-Wahtonka from here on out.
They open against Pendleton, the No. 1 ranked 5A team in the state, at Pendleton Friday and will be looking to hand the Buckaroos their first varsity loss this season.
To make things even harder, the Pendleton game will be the first the Eagles have played on the road at a non-neutral site.
The only road games the Eagles got in during the rain-hampered non-league slate were three tournament games at Glencoe during spring break.
While Pendleton may be the top dog heading into league play, the other two league teams are no pushovers.
Hermiston is 8-3 and The Dalles-Wahtonka is 7-5.
Even though they did not get the win in any of their three final non-league games, and Harjo was not one for moral victories, he was heartened by the fact they were close in two of the three games and that if his team commits to continuing to work hard, they can make their own breaks.
"The breaks will come our way if we just keep working hard," he said.
He said the team has been focused on beating Pendleton all season, and now he wants to see those words turn into actions.
"We need a strong pitching performance through Parker Sherrell, lights-out defense up the middle and confidence at the plate," Harjo said. "That's all they can talk about is beating Pendleton."
The Eagles play at Pendleton Friday and Tuesday, and then host the Buckaroos in a doubleheader April 23 starting at 11 a.m.