Lions improve, but still seeking first league win

Going into last Friday’s doubleheader at Kelly Field, the Cottage Grove baseball team knew it would take a stellar performance to win either game against Marshfield. The Pirates were on a four-game winning streak with Sky-Em league wins over Elmira, Junction City, and Siuslaw.

On the other hand, in their last eight games, all losses, the Lions had been shutout four times, averaging only 1.6 runs per game while allowing an average of 13 runs per game. Clearly, the Lions were not hitting or pitching well.

Despite the odds being against them, the Cottage Grove boys displayed a competitive spirit, and showed signs of improvement. In the first game with sophomore Isaiah Cushman starting on the mound, the Lions were tied with the Pirates, 3-to-3 after two innings. Marshfield took a 7-3 lead in the top of the fourth, but the Lions’ boys answered by loading the bases with nobody out. It looked very promising when sophomore Christian Spear, Cottage Groves leading hitter, strode into the batter’s box. 

Spear then smacked a line drive off the Pirates’ Luke Parry, and for a brief moment hopes rose for Lions fans. Unfortunately the ball was hit directly to Marshfield star shortstop, Dom Montiel, who turned it into a double play, and the rally was thwarted. That play turned out to be the turning point of the game, as the Lions went scoreless the rest of the game, while the Pirates added five more runs in their 12-3 victory.

A positive for the Cottage Grove hitting attack was the fact that the Lions had a runner in scoring position (on second base or third) in every inning, except one. Also, the home team struck out only three times in the seven-inning game. Christian Spear had two hits, while Carter Parsons socked a double, and Micah Spear and Deegan Hutchins contributed singles for Cottage Grove’s five hits in the opener.

The Oregon rain had held off in the first game, but in the second game, a drizzle persisted the whole game with moments of rain in the last two innings. The Lions spirits were not dampened even though Montiel was on the mound for the Pirates. Montiel, who is headed to the Oregon State football program as a preferred walk-on quarterback, struck out 10 Lions in just four innings. 

The Lions led off the game with a double by Christian Spear, a bunt single by senior J.J. Thornton, and a ground ball by Cushman to score Spear. Freshman Micah Spear was impressive as the starting pitcher, giving up just three runs in the first three innings against the potent Pirate offense. 

After Montiel was taken out after four innings, Cottage Grove rallied from an 8-1 deficit, to make it 8-4 after five innings. A single by Christian Spear scored freshman Anthony Eubanks, who had walked, and that was followed by RBI singles by Thornton and Micah Spear. 

A big turning point came in the sixth inning as darkness was falling on Kelly Field, and the drizzle turned into rain. Junior Deegan Hutchins and sophomore Peyton Glenn were the top contributors, each with singles, as the Lions scored two more runs. The Grovers then loaded the bases, trailing just 9-to-6 with two outs. As in the first game, a golden opportunity was missed as Pirate reliever, Johnny Calvert struck out a Lion. The final score was 12-6, but No. 13 ranked Marshfield team knew they had escaped Cottage Grove’s bid for an upset.

“I thought offensively we were better today,” said head coach Lance Faxon after the game. “We hit a bunch of balls hard, especially in the first game. I thought offensively those were our best league games  for sure, back-to-back, so that was good.”

The Lions, as of May 2, are 0-8 in Sky-Em league play, and 2-16 overall with a ranking of No. 31 out of 33 4A teams. The Grovers have credible chance to capture some wins to begin the month of May as they host the 1-6 Siuslaw Vikings in a Friday doubleheader.