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Press Box Report - Portland Pilots

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Final Score - Oregon State 5, Portland 1

(NOTE... Quotes from Coach Casey, bottom of this post.)

It turned out to be a great day for baseball on the campus of the University of Portland, where the tarp successfully protected the dirt infield from the elements on Tuesday morning. You could hardly tell that it had been absolutely pouring in the Portland Metropolitan Area earlier in the day... and the fans turned out to watch the Beavers and Pilots play. I heard someone say that there were 250 people in attendance, but that can't be right...  the box score says  448, but I bet there were about 500-600 people in attendance. 

Being the natural underdog in the game, Portland started Scott Burris on the mound, a guy who has been one of their most reliable weekend starters so far this season. Being that the Pilots had the weekend off due to Graduation, head coach Chris Sperry was able to pitch his regular starters on limited pitch counts, and it was very effective.  Starter Scott Burris threw only 23 pitches in his two perfect innings of work, and Matthew Lange, who has made four starts on the year, threw 31 pitches. Keeler Brynteson, a key relief guy for the Pilots, got the most work on the staff in the game, working two and a third and throwing 44 pitches. In the end, four out of five of UP's top pitchers all saw work in the game.

Where the Pilots really hurt themselves from a pitching standpoint was balks and free passes. Portland committed three balks in the game that led to a couple Oregon State runs, John Tommasini was hit by a pitch and later scored, and Adalberto Santos scored on a balk. Those little things make a big difference if the game stays close and UP gets a few big hits late in key situations.

On the reverse side of things, the freebies given to OSU by UP is frustrating from the standpoint that the Beavers weren't truly earning every run. Seven hits with six guys left on base aren't exactly numbers you'd like to have against Portland, but give them credit-- their pitchers kept the game close for the most part.

Defensively, there were a few snafus, and a few gems as well. Joey Wong made a over-the-shoulder basket catch with his back to the plate in the ninth inning that could have been disastrous had the ball dropped. Also, Koa Kahalehoe made a diving catch for a ball in left during the eighth inning. It didn't look as good as that may sound-- Koa seemed to misjudge the ball, then had to dive onto the grass to make-up for his mistake. The UP coaching staff thought the ball may have hit the ground-- it was hard to see, as Koa was in an awkward position, but it was officially ruled a catch. On the negative side, Stefen Romero and Ryan Ortiz let a fly ball in foul territory drop because of miscommunication, as they both retreated at the same time. Plays like that happen, but it obviously showed a lack of focus... maybe you will better understand once you read Coach Casey's comments below. The other major defensive mistake came in the ninth, when Tyler Thompson hit a dribbler towards the pitchers mound. Joey Wong had an easy angle on the ball, but pitcher James Nygren made an athletic play to get his mitt on the ball, but the extra effort caromed the ball away from Wong, putting two runners on base. It was at that point that the coaches decided to go to Rhoderick, who threw 31 pitches across three different innings on Sunday. Rhoderick only ended up throwing six pitches in the game, but it was obviously a move the OSU staff didn't want to make, as you'll read below.

Now, enough of my ramblings... 

After the game, I had an opportunity to interview Coach Casey alongside Kerry Eggers of the Portland Tribune and Jim Beseda of the Oregonian. Here's the transcription of the interview:

(My question...) Does the series win over Arizona State come into play on day like this, when your team maybe looks past UP?

I hope that's not the case, because I have respect for the University of Portland's baseball program. I follow what they do, I see that they're hitting .300, I see how many home runs they have... they go down and put a whipping on San Diego... I know they can play baseball. And we talked about it before we got here, you're going to play a good baseball team.... they're going to mix. He's protecting his staff, and doing what you're supposed to do getting ready for the weekend. I said... they're going to compete and they're going to be good. Fortunately, we got good pitching, and it was a good baseball game from the standpoint that there wasn't a lot of errors... wasn't a lot of freebies.... 5-1, quick game.

On the game overall:

Mid-week games are tough for everybody, because everyone is gearing up for conference. Portland has a good baseball team, there's no doubt about it. We came in here and did not play with a lot of energy, didn't play with a lot of enthusiasm, didn't play with a lot of confidence... we just didn't play the way we're capable of playing. And when playing a team like Portland U, you better play well. We got fortunate that Sam Gaviglio pitched so well, we got fortunate that some balls didn't drop... we left runners on base, we missed signs, we didn't execute a hit and run, we left runners on base-- that's just not the way you play baseball. And I think that's what separates good teams from great teams-- people that are willing to do it on days when, hey, it's raining, I wasn't sure we were going to play, it's a non-conference game, whatever the excuse is. We didn't play very good baseball.

On the pitching:

First two guys were dominant. I thought Sam did a great job, and I thought Osich did a great job. After that, you get behind hitters. This should be an opportunity for us to do a better job offensively. Our pitching carried us, and our defense was good. Joey made a great catch on the ball out behind second base... that's a big, big play. I don't take things for granted. People take games for granted, they take days off. And we can't take days off when there's 15 left... what are we resting for? The summer? I didn't like our approach to the game today at all.

More on the pitching rotation and today's effort after the break.

--Jake (jake.buildingthedam@gmail.com)

On the rotation for this weekend:

We have not decided on the rotation, tomorrow morning we will decide that.

Reyes will definitely be the Sunday guy, right?

Not necessarily.

Any spots for sure?

I think right now, the way you look at things, Gaviglio can't start. Other than that, anybody can start other than Rhoderick and Osich. Ryan Gorton could be a guy.

On the consistency Sam Gaviglio has shown:

He's done great. I wish some people would watch him pitch. He keeps the ball down, throws strikes, gets ahead of hitters, makes the pitches, competes, I wish some of our hitteres would watch him throw. Maybe they'd get a better idea of how to compete at the plate.

Could he work his way into the weekend rotation?

Absolutely. Problem that you have when you do that , is that we've seen inconsistencies out of starting pitching in the last three weekends, and you don't get that out of Sam or Ryan Gorton. When we put those two guys in, we know what we're going to get. It's frustrating when you give people extra opportunities by a walk, hit batter, or an error. Those are things that kill you, and we dodged a bullet today in my opinion. Portland's one swing away from putting the ball in the gap and making it a 5-3 game with the momentum switching. Then we've got to put Rhoderick in, who threw on Sunday... we shouldn't have to do that.

With the offense... did the lackluster effort come once you got up 5-1?

Lackluster from the very beginning. No intensity at the plate. The look in the eye wasn't there, nobody was looking to get after somebody... it just wasn't there all day. Sometimes you have those days, and I get it. But most of the time when you have those days, Mike Leake is on the mound, who dominates you. I thought we had an opportunity-- and I give their guys credit, they pitched well-- I thought we could have squared up on some balls better and could have got some better at-bats.

--Jake (jake.buildingthedam@gmail.com)