“We need more hits.”
While also acknowledging that the Lions’ baseball team needed to improve in “several areas of the game,” Cottage Grove Manager James Berry succinctly summed up his team’s major shortfall.
Berry said as much after the Lions’ disappointing 15-4 loss in the first game of a doubleheader played against the Elmira Falcons on a beautiful Saturday afternoon. In the opener, Elmira’s Troy Anderson had pitched four innings of no-hit ball before command issues forced the Falcons to seek relief.
By then, the score stood Elmira 12, Cottage Grove 1, with errors responsible for several Falcon runs. The Lions would need two more runs to avoid the 10-run rule in the fifth inning, and they did manage to score three. But these all came as the result of the wildness of Elmira’s pitchers, who walked the bases loaded.
Cottage Grove sophomore Deegan Hutchins grounded out to bring in one run, and another walk and flyout by JJ Thornton accounted for the other two. Elmira struck back, though, with a three-run double that ended the game. Cottage Grove suffered another game where they did not produce a base-hit.
Berry noted the impressive performance of Lion pitcher Braden Buckland, who continued to battle throughout the game and often stymied Falcon hitters with a lively curveball.
Needing to find a way to rattle the bats in Saturday’s finale, the Lions sure came out swinging. Christian Spear and Thornton led off the game with singles. Hutchins flew out to right to bring in a run, and then cleanup hitter Tristan Kane socked a standup double. Later freshman Peyton Glenn also singled. The Lions left one runner on but scored three runs on four hits to take the early lead. Things looked even brighter as Spear, a freshman, blanked the Falcons in the bottom of the first.
After the opening frame, however, Cottage Grove’s bats again went quiet. Elmira lefty Aiden Wolgamott settled down, eventually striking out seven Lions and not allowing another run. By contrast, the Falcons scored four runs in the second inning, three in the fourth and three in the sixth to seal a 10-3 win.
Despite a challenging year, Berry said he’s encouraged by progress the Lions made during their six-week season.
Up and down, there’s been improvement this year without question,” he said. “We’ve played decent baseball down the stretch. There have just been too many hiccups here and there.”
With four juniors and several freshmen and sophomores on this year’s team, it’s a pretty safe bet that the Lions will improve on the foundation laid this year in 2022.
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