Lions on hunt for first victory

Braedon Buckland high-fives Logan Lowrey, who scored the Lions’ lone run of the afternoon against Marist in game two, on a line-drive single by Christian Spear. (Jon Stinnett/for The Sentinel)

More than a year after the pandemic lockdown ended baseball at Kelley Field, the Cottage Grove Lions finally returned home Tuesday, April 13, and they were greeted with a nail-biter against the Siuslaw Vikings that was undecided until the last out.

Siuslaw jumped out to an early lead, but the Lions would soon counter. The turning point came in the fifth inning, as the Vikings took advantage of control issues for Cottage Grove pitchers to erupt for five runs. The Lions kept battling, however, but came up just short — dropping their season opener, 11-9.

Junior Braedon Buckland started on the mound for Cottage Grove, walking the first two Vikings, who were knocked home on a double by Siuslaw’s Jason Garcia in the top of the first inning. On the same play, Garcia was nailed trying to stretch his hit to a triple by junior center fielder Logan Lowrey, who threw a scorcher to third-baseman Carter Parsons.

The Lions rebounded for four runs in the second. Paul Logan and Lowrey walked, and then freshman shortstop Christian Spear lined a double to score them both. Later, freshman Peyton Glenn doubled to score Spear and catcher Crimson Tadlock.

Buckland shut down the Vikings during their trip to the plate in the second, with the Lions adding a run in their half of the inning to go up 5-3. Siuslaw responded with three runs of their own to re-take the lead, 6-5. Buckland reached his allotted pitch count and was relieved first by Spear, then Logan and Christian Kane. The Vikings were held in check in during fourth inning, but their five-run fifth put the Lions’ backs against the wall.

To their credit, though, the home team never gave up. Kane shut out the Vikings on the mound in the sixth and seventh innings. A two-run single in the bottom of the fifth narrowed the deficit, and the Lions went down in order in the sixth. Two singles in the seventh, though, cut Siuslaw’s lead to two runs.

But the Lions couldn’t bring runners home in the seventh and eventually lost a close one, but not before fighting back from a six-run deficit. Combined, Cottage Grove pitchers struck out 12 Vikings in the opener.

Three nights later, the Lions were back around the diamond to face Marist. As a young team entering a short season with little time to prepare, Cottage Grove can expect to see something new just about every time they hit the field. During last Friday’s home doubleheader against the Spartans, it was fairly obvious that the Lions were not ready for what they saw.

The Lions took to Kelley Field under beautiful sunny skies and uncommonly warm April temperatures. Unfortunately, their baseball fortunes didn’t follow the weather. Junior Braedon Buckland got the start on the mound for Cottage Grove and, while Buckland was able to keep Marist mostly in check early on, Spartan hitters still found frequent solid contact.

And the Lions couldn’t have liked what they saw in Marist pitcher Lucas Patterson, who stymied one Cottage Grove batter after another. Patterson would eventually be lifted for Isaiah Hannah, but Hannah picked up right where his Spartan teammate left off.

Neither pitcher allowed a Lion batter to reach base, tallying a perfect game shutout on the way to a 20-0 Marist win in five innings.

Unfortunately for the Lions, momentum for the Spartans carried over from the first game to the second, where a 10-run first inning gave Marist all the cushion it needed to again cruise to victory, this time a 27-1 tally.

A host of Lions pitchers tried their stuff in game two, but big hits including a monster homerun from Patterson over the left field fence proved too much to contain. Cottage Grove tallied its lone run on a rally in the third inning on a line drive single by Christian Spear that brought Logan Lowrey across the plate.

Lions Manager James Berry said that his team expects a steep learning curve this season.

“We’re a young team with a lot of freshmen,” Berry said. “We’re still trying to piece things together to get better as a team, and we’ve got a lot to work on.”

The Lions struggled again at Junction City this past Tuesday, dropping another Sky-Em League game to the Tigers, 16-1. They’ll look to right the ship this Friday, in another doubleheader — this time against Marshfield.

First pitch is at 3 p.m.

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