Lions face slow start to season

Cottage Grove’s Hunter Sharkey takes a cut against Phoenix last week. Photo by CGHS Photography.

Facing some of the top teams in 4A, Cottage Grove baseball out to 2-5 start

In the first week of the season it was Cottage Grove baseball (2-5) facing both the second and eighth ranked teams in state. In the second week of the season, the task at hand was not easier as the Lions faced a 4-1 Mazama team and number five-ranked Phoenix.

“We’ve played good teams in this preseason, we’ve played a lot of good teams,” said Cottage Grove head coach Dan Geiszler last Thursday’s 11-2 loss against Phoenix. “[The team] just has to understand that this is a process and we’re working towards the league and getting better.”

It was the visiting Pirates (4-2) jumping out to an early lead – capitalizing on walks and miscues – with three runs in the first inning and a pair in the second to give the team an early advantage last week.

“We have so many kids that are so nervous. We get so uptight and nervous over things and we’ve just got to relax and play,” said Geiszler. Geiszler noted that in addition to playing some of the top teams in 4A, the Lions were also dealing with an injury and some issues with grades that meant adjustments throughout the lineup. “The kids are working hard, they’re trying. We’ve just got to keep getting better and improving.”

Phoenix continued to put the pressure on Cottage Grove in the fifth inning as they batted around their lineup and scored four runs.

“Just putting the ball in play and play hard. That’s what our focus was today, just make good contact,” said Phoenix head coach Bill Hutchinson. “We got 15 guys in today and all 15 guys contributed in some way. You don’t see that very often. I’m happy for them.”

Cottage Grove’s pitching trio of Noah Spink – who got the start and pitched three innings – Hunter Sharkey and Jaxon Simmons gave up 11 hits on the day and recorded three strike outs. Offensively, Sharkey recorded two of the team’s six hits on the day and scored a run.

Earlier in the week the Lions split a double-header with Mazama winning the first game of the day 8-7. In the victory, Wyatt Sayles pitched six innings and recorded seven strikeouts. Cottage Grove finished the game with six hits as a team including two from Simmons. Sayles had a hit on the day to along with three RBIs. In the second game of the day, Cottage Grove lost 9-4.

“After last game, I think my message was you better get better or this is going to be a long season. You better figure it out.” Geiszler said of the loss to Mazama. “Today was kind of on the other end of, ‘Hey, we’re just going to keep working.’ As a coach you’ve just got to find the psychology of the whole thing and get what’s going to push their buttons the best.”

This week, the team played at the Hidden Valley Tournament in Grants Pass. On Monday, the Lions defeated South Umpqua (0-4-1) 18-6. Cottage Grove played Sutherlin and Hidden Valley on Tuesday after The Sentinel’s print deadline.

The team will be back in action next Tuesday at home against Creswell at 4:30 p.m. in their last non-league game of the season.

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