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South Whidbey batting falls flat against Lakewood
LANGLEY — The air was a chilly 40 degrees Monday afternoon. The Falcon’s hitting was colder.
Against Lakewood, the South Whidbey baseball team combined for two hits and four base on balls, including only one walk. The Cougar pitchers retired five Falcons with strikeouts and only allowed a Falcon runner to reach third base twice.
“Defensively, there were no spectacular plays, but every routine play we made,” said Cougar head coach Larry Delaney.
“Until the seventh inning, we were never in any sort of a jam.”
Conversely, the Falcons (0-2 Cascade Conference, 0-3 overall) found themselves down early. South Whidbey’s pitcher Cameron Wildes, a senior, walked Cougar center fielder Brandon Stott — the leadoff batter — who later scored on a fielding error by Falcon second baseman Daniel Sage.
“I guess the first inning jitters got ahold of me,” Wildes said. “I’m better than that. I should not be dealing with that as a pitcher, especially as a senior.”
Lakewood (2-0 Cascade Conference, 2-0 overall) padded its lead in the third inning. Wildes gave up three straight singles, which were kept from loading the bases because Wildes picked off Stott at first base. With runners on first and second, Cougar catcher Colby Jones drilled a double to the fence in left-center field. Both Cougar runners scored for a 3-0 lead until Wildes got Cougar pitcher Jerrad Jones to fly out to right field.
“We got a couple timely hits. Colby Jones with a two-out, two-run double in the third inning ended up being a big hit for us,” Delaney said.
The Cougars’ pitching kept the Falcons from getting a hit until the third inning. Falcon senior first baseman Ammon Christensen hit a single between third and second base. Jones’ pitching lost some control when he beaned Falcon senior outfielder Montana Johnson, then nearly gave up a long hit by junior catcher Aaron Curfman that was a few feet foul when it hit the fence near left field. With two outs and runners on first and third, the Falcons’ second batter Michael Agate flied out to Cougar shortstop Alex Keen in shallow left field.
“We’ve got five games this week. We were going to have to piece it together with our pitching today, and all three of our pitchers did exactly what we hoped and more,” said Delaney, who had a full week of games ahead.
“We wanted to make sure to keep our pitchers fresh for the week.”
Lakewood was able to keep its pitchers’ throw counts low. Cougar pitchers faced at most four batters in five separate innings. South Whidbey’s hitters struggled to get on base, and it was a problem that persisted since a 10-0 loss to Cedarcrest last week. Wildes and Falcon head coach Jeff Hodson said the team was hitting well in practice, and they needed to get similar production in the games.
“If one person can put a good pop on a ball, the adrenaline starts flowing a little faster and people get a little more aggressive, it can turn into a streak,” Hodson said.
Wildes was the only other Falcon to get a hit, a line drive single to center field in the fourth. Freshman Mo Hamsa was brought in to run for Wildes, but was thrown out while stealing second base. Hodson said he wanted to be aggressive with his runners at the start of the season, and had no regrets about the call.
“I plan on being aggressive at the bases,” Hodson said.
“There are some times where we hesitated when I think we shouldn’t have.”
South Whidbey attempted a seventh-inning rally when Keen was brought in to relieve Adam Oppliger. Falcon sophomore Jack Lewis was walked, then senior Anthony Banks was substituted to run for him. Senior outfielder Wyatt Schuchman hit a fielder’s choice to third base that was bobbled, but Banks was thrown out at second. Wildes was hit by a pitch to put runners on first and second base. Sage struck out on a called third strike. A balk moved the runners into scoring position, but Christensen grounded out to shortstop Bradley Keen to end the game without a Falcon reaching home plate.
“Right now, I think we can compete if we can hit the ball,” Hodson said. “We’re trying to find a way to transfer what we’re seeing in practice, which is a good job at hitting. Somehow we need to figure out a way to transfer that into a game.”
The loss was the first complete game Wildes pitched this season. He gave up four runs and threw one strikeout through seven innings. Wildes had to lobby to stay on the mound, however.
“I kind of used our friendship there and said, ‘Coach leave me in. I love it,’” Wildes said.
“When I was doing my leg kick, I felt more balance toward those innings when things are going better.”
South Whidbey travels to Lakewood on Wednesday for the second game in the series. The Falcons will look for their first win this week against the Cougars, as they also host them Friday.
“Nobody’s putting their heads down yet. We know we can win these games and we’re looking to our next game,” Wildes said.