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Scoring vanishes as Tigers shut out Falcon sluggers
LANGLEY — If someone finds the Falcon baseball team’s offense, let Jeff Hodson know.
South Whidbey continued to struggle at the plate getting only four hits. Fielding mistakes only added to the winless Falcons’ frustrations after a 5-0 loss to the Granite Falls Tigers on Monday.
“I wish I could find them. I’ve looked under every rock. I cannot find our hits. That’s what’s killing us right now,” said Hodson, the Falcons’ head coach.
“Unfortunately, our bats are not showing up. That’s been the story of this year.”
Granite Falls (3-2 Cascade Conference, 3-2 overall) scored first, albeit late in the game. The Tigers hit through their lineup on four singles, two errors and one walk in the fifth inning. Granite Falls’ leadoff batter and starting pitcher, Riley Larsen, reached first on an error by Falcon senior third baseman Cameron Wildes. Tiger shortstop Jeff Benson bunted between the pitcher’s mound and third base and beat the throw to first. Tyler Hamilton, the Tigers’ center fielder, pulled a single past Wildes, who was drawn in to protect home plate, and scored Larsen. Tiger right fielder Joey Barnett hit a blooper to shallow right field that scored Benson. Drew Benson, the Tigers’ first baseman, lined a single to center field.
“I felt like I was in kind of a groove,” said Falcon junior pitcher Jack Lewis, who allowed five hits, four walks and threw one strikeout. “Then they started hitting the ball in my last inning and things kind of started to slip a little bit.”
The fifth inning was more like a cartoonish slip on a banana peel. Falcon senior center fielder Michael Agate caught a pop fly by Tiger catcher James Bernard, but threw the ball past the Falcons’ bullpen and out of play in an attempt to tag out Barnett. Two runs scored on the overthrow, uncharacteristic of Agate, one of the Falcons’ more reliable veterans. The next batter, Tiger left fielder Josh Weaver, reached first on a grounder that went under Wildes’ glove and slipped by Falcon senior shortstop Taylor Todd. Benson scored from second base for the fifth and final run of the game. That play was evidence to Hodson that his team had succumbed under the pressure to get its first win.
“I watched a slow roller go past my third baseman, go past my shortstop and barely make it to the outfield,” Hodson said. “That should be a play that you pick up and throw the guy out at first.”
South Whidbey ended Granite Falls’ scoring rally on a double play. Tiger designated hitter Junior Russell hit a grounder to Todd, who fielded it on the infield grass, and tossed to Falcon senior second baseman Spencer Koszarek, who threw out Russell at first base.
Granite Falls’ pitcher allowed five hits, one walk, zero runs and struck out three batters.
“He threw a nice game, didn’t get behind and stayed ahead of their batters,” said Tiger head coach Doug Engstrom of his pitcher Riley Larsen.
The Falcons never came close to scoring. Their best rally was in the bottom of the sixth inning, when sophomore relief pitcher CJ Sutfin reached first on a low throw by Tiger third baseman Chris Gentry. Falcon junior reserve Cody Huffman came in to run for Sutfin, but got caught in a double play when Tiger second baseman Colton Russell dove to catch Falcon sophomore left fielder Nick Bennett’s line drive and threw out Huffman at first base for a double play.
“I’m going to continue to be aggressive on the bases,” Hodson said. “Their defense took advantage of making the right plays on us, whether it was picking us off or we hit into a couple double play situations.”
The scoreless outing was just the latest in a string of batting problems for the Falcons. Since conference play began, South Whidbey has been shut out four times and averaged 2.4 runs through 10 games while its league opponents totaled 83 runs, including a season-high 16 from Archbishop Murphy last week.
“I feel like it’s just all in our heads. We crush the ball in every practice. We just crush it,” Lewis said. “You get into a game and it’s the exact same scenario. You’ve got a guy not throwing that hard and it’s just, ‘Oh crap, it’s live. I’ve got to perform.’”
South Whidbey (0-9 Cascade Conference, 0-11 overall) travels to Granite Falls on Wednesday, April 4, then hosts the Tigers on Friday, April 6.