The Hood River Valley baseball team is still searching for consistency as it begins Intermountain Conference play Saturday in Bend with a double-header against the Summit Storm.
After a less than stellar outing on Monday versus La Salle — a 10-3 loss that was riddled with defensive miscues — the Eagles looked to get back on track Thursday against Dallas.
But a number of untimely errors overshadowed an otherwise sparkling defensive day for the Eagles, who lost their second straight home game, 8-5, to fall to 3-7 in the preseason.
“We’re fielding the ball great right now,” coach Gerry Flink said. “But what’s happening is, we’re not making good throws. That’s correctable, though. The errant throws are more of a mental thing.”
Starter Jeremy Belcher, the Eagles No. 4 pitcher, had a semi-
effective outing in which he went three innings and gave up five runs. But it could have been more if it weren’t for a string of defensive gems in the second and third innings.
Belcher loaded the bases with no outs in the second, but ended up getting out of the inning on two consecutive sterling catches by center fielder Bryan Nishimoto and left fielder Kyle Maurer.
Right fielder Tony Hull got into the action in the third with an over-the-head stab, which he was able to throw into second base for an inning-ending double play.
Additional defensive help came later in the game from Belcher, who took over at shortstop in the fourth when senior Cody Wickwire came on in relief. Belcher’s backhand scoop and subsequent throw to first ended the fifth inning, and gave Wickwire his second straight 1-2-3 inning.
“If our pitchers can continue to throw strikes, we’re going to be fine,” Flink said. “We’re not where I’d like us to be with the bats, though. Our hitting will have to improve if we’re going to stay in the playoff race.”
HRV had seven basehits on Thursday, but many of them came when no runners were on base. However, Flink said that he still has confidence in his offense.
“We need to get back to playing little ball,” he said. “We’re going to bunt more and try more hit-and-runs in league play so we can create better scoring chances.”
The Eagles did most of their scoring in the final two frames against Dallas, but were able cut the lead to 5-2 in the bottom of the third. Belcher scored Pete Dills on a fielder’s choice, while head’s up baserunning by Jarrod Fogle allowed him to take third and home on wild pitches by starter Matt Dimick.
HRV didn’t get on the board again until the sixth when Heath Goin scored Belcher on a fielder’s choice. Pinch hitter Danny Newton also plunked an RBI single to center, which scored Ryan Pratt to make the score 8-4. The Eagles scored one more run in the bottom of the seventh (Dills), but it wasn’t enough.
However, despite the two home setbacks this week, Flink believes his team can make a statement at Summit.
“We believe we can come away with two wins,” he said. “It will be a good early-season measurement of where we are in this league.”