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Starters superb in conference openers

Goin, Fogle pace HRV baseball team in Saturday’s sweep of Summit

BEND — Hood River Valley baseball coach Gerry Flink came away from Saturday’s two-game sweep of Summit looking like a prophet.

Not only did the Eagles (5-7, 2-0 IMC) accomplish their goal of taking two games from the Storm. Flink’s team also benefitted from stellar starting pitching, consistent defense and clutch hitting on the way to wins of 5-2 and 6-5.

All three ingredients were key to HRV’s performance, and all three were pointed out by Flink before Saturday’s road trip.

“We just played great baseball,” he said. “The road would have been a lot tougher if we had lost either of those games. And it helps when you don’t beat yourself.”

For starters, HRV’s No. 1 pitcher, junior Heath Goin, went the distance in game one, giving up just four hits, one walk and one earned run.

Senior Jarrod Fogle was equally effective in game two, going the entire eight innings while giving up 10 hits, three walks and four earned runs.

But the pitchers weren’t able to do it alone. The Eagles’ defense also showed how far it has come in the past year, committing just three errors on the afternoon.

“What’s picking us up right now is our defense,” said senior third baseman Ryan Pratt, who was scheduled to start Tuesday’s home game with Hermiston (results not available at press time).

“It’s been struggling the past couple years, but this year, we’re really strong defensively. Now we just need to get the hitting going,” he said.

Pratt was one of four Eagles with two hits on Saturday, along with Goin, Fogle and junior Jeremy Belcher. But HRV batted just 13-56 on the day — a .232 average.

“We know that it’s not going to be easy the rest of the way,” Flink said, “but this was exactly the effort we needed to start with. I’d like to see us hit the ball a little better, but we got some big hits when we needed them.”

Flink pointed to the sixth inning of game one as an offensive turning point for the Eagles. With the score tied 1-1 and runners on second and third, Pratt looped a double to center to score two.

Goin followed with a triple to score Pratt, and just like that, HRV was up 4-1 with only six outs left on defense.

HRV added an insurance run when Goin scored on a passed ball. But the ability to get clutch hits spurred the Eagles in the right direction for game two.

“We tried to play little ball when we needed to,” Flink said. “And it worked for the most part. If they didn’t have an all-league catcher behind the plate, we may have had a few more stolen bases and a few more runs.”

Sophomore Bryan Nishimoto got the scoring started in game two with a two-RBI double in the first inning. Junior Kyle Maurer picked up an RBI in the fifth and helped stake HRV to a 5-4 lead.

But Summit was able to tie the game in the bottom of the seventh, and HRV needed some late-game heroics to pull off the win.

Junior Danny Newton led off the eighth with a single and advanced to third on consecutive passed balls. Maurer then hit a chopper over the mound that resulted in a low throw and the go-ahead run.

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