PEORIA, Ariz. — By the fifth day of Spring Break, the Hood River Valley baseball team was ready for a break. A break from losing.
Setbacks of 10-1 (Eagle, Idaho), 9-3 (Grant H.S., Portland), and 29-5 (Centennial H.S., Arizona) were beginning to deflate the Eagles as they took to the diamond for the back end of a double header on Wednesday.
But something clicked inside the Eagles when they faced Aloha High School of Portland, and they got back on the winning track with a 14-5 win.
“I’ll tell you what,” coach Gerry Flink said. “These kids showed a lot of character this game. We could have easily quit after losing 29-5 earlier in the day. But we came out and made plays, and just forgot about it.”
Senior pitcher Jarrod Fogle threw six innings of seven-hit ball to give the HRV offense a chance, while junior Heath Goin shut the door in the seventh by striking out the side.
Fogle also scored three runs and had a basehit for the Eagles (2-4 overall), who pounded out nine hits on the afternoon.
Junior infielder Jeremy Belcher went 3-4 with three runs and an RBI, while sophomore first baseman Bryan Nishimoto notched three RBI’s, including a two-run single in the sixth inning.
But the biggest statistic on the day was zero errors. Flink said he doesn’t remember the last time the Eagles have played such sound defense, and was highly complimentary.
“Coming out with an effort like this tells you a lot about your club,” Flink said. “The bottom line is that we had to make plays against Aloha.
“They tried to run on us, but we shut ‘em down. It was exactly the effort we needed as we begin to think about our last few preseason games,” he said.
HRV played one more Spring Break contest Friday against Sunset High School of Portland, but results were not available at press time.
They return home today and will take Sunday and Monday off before returning to practice on Tuesday. The team’s next game is April 4 at home versus Gladstone.
“We’re still trying to figure out what kind of a team we have,” Flink said. “I’m already seeing that these guys want to win games and give 100 percent effort, so that’s a good start.”
Despite Wednesday’s win, HRV was less than chipper after its opening three games in Arizona.
Flink said Monday’s 10-1 loss to Eagle High School of Idaho was to be expected since the Mustangs finished second in the state last season.
But Tuesday’s loss to Grant was the kind of game the Eagles would like to avoid once the Intermountain Conference season begins.
Up 3-2 heading into the bottom of the fifth inning, HRV gave up five runs to the Generals — most of them attributed to walks and errors.
Senior pitcher Ryan Pratt was strong for the first four innings, but began to struggle in the fifth.
“We tried to push him a bit,” Flink said. “It’s early in the year and we wanted him to test his arm strength. He’ll get there.”
Offensively, HRV recorded six hits against Grant — all by different players.