Room to grow for Lions baseball

Kendrick Murphy/CG Sentinel

Over the past week, the Cottage Grove baseball team faced their toughest competition yet at the Newport Spring Break tournament, featuring two top teams in pre-season top 10 and the other being ranked just outside. The Lions faced off against Gladstone, Henley and Newport and weren’t able to create much offensively. In the three games combined, Cottage Grove mustered seven runs while their opponents eclipsed double digit runs in each contest. 

“I thought we continued to play good defense, which was good,” said Head Coach Lance Faxon. “For the most part, our pitching held up okay as far as throwing strikes and offensively, we got a little bit better than we were the week before. Against Gladstone, we had nine hits and that was good to see. So, I think we probably played a little bit better as a team than we did the week before. Our competition was just better.”

Game 1 

Cottage Grove got their tournament underway with a matchup against the Gladstone Gladiators at Frank Wade Park early Wednesday morning. In the first inning the Lions loaded up the base paths and a drawn walk by Micah Spear followed by a Deegan Hutchins sacrifice fly gave Cottage Grove the early 2-0 lead. 

The Gladiators broke the game open in the third inning, erupting for 15 runs and cementing themselves in front. Gladstone drew four walks in the frame and the Lions compounded their mistakes with five errors in the inning giving Gladstone a huge advantage. 

“We walked the first three guys at the beginning of the inning,” said Faxon. “Our pitcher’s arm started to hurt a little bit and so we took him out of the game. But by both points it was already 7-2 and then they had a three-run home homerun.”

In the fourth inning Micah Spear added two more RBIs to his day hitting a line drive to left field bringing in Christian Spear and Wyatt Teague. Cottage Grove couldn’t get the margin any closer than 12 and Gladstone came away with the 16-4 win. 

Game 2

Later the same day Cottage Grove squared off against Henley looking to bounce back from the earlier defeat. The Hornets’ bats were swinging early, scoring two runs in their opening half of the first inning, and grabbing the 2-0 lead. In the bottom of the first, Micah Spear grounded into a fielder’s choice bringing home a run to cut Henley’s lead in half 2-1. 

In the bottom of the third inning, Cottage Grove had the bases loaded and scored another run after Hutchins drove in Tristan Kane to make the score 3-2 in favor of the Hornets. 

In the following two innings Henley scored 12 runs to put themselves comfortably in front and eventually ran away with the 15-2 win. 

“They (Henley) just swung the bats,” said Faxon. “I think we walked two or three guys and we didn’t make very many errors. They had 15 hits and a lot of them were for extra bases. Our pitchers threw strikes, but Henley was just able to just pound the ball over the yard and kind of get away from us there.”

Game 3

In their final bout of the tournament, Cottage Grove battled against the host school Newport. Micah Spear kept his solid tournament performance going, adding another RBI by bringing in Kane in the Lions half of the first inning. The lead was short lived for the Lions as the Cubs turned around to score five runs in the bottom half of the same inning taking a 5-1 lead. 

The troubles offensively continued as the Lions only got one more hit the rest of the way and didn’t put up another run. Newport tacked on five more runs after the first inning to grow their lead and eventually come away with the 10-1 win. 

“That was like the first game all year where we didn’t do a great job of throwing strikes,” said Faxon. “I think we walked or hit 10 guys that game and they scored 10 runs. Free passes will end up hurting us if we don’t throw the ball over the plate.” Faxon added. “Hopefully by seeing the way good teams go about playing, maybe we can learn from that and start to implement that into what we’re doing so we can start to be one of those types of teams too. I think so far, the teams we’ve played are 23-5 and so our schedule has been pretty tough so far.”

The Lions will have an opportunity to get back on the winning side this week. Hosting Sweet Home on Tuesday, March 29 with the results to be determined after The Sentinel’s press time, followed by a double header on the road against Klamath Union on April 2 at noon and 2 p.m.