By Jeremy McDonald
AURORA, Ore.–For the first four innings between Single-A North Willamette Valley of North Marion High School and Triple-A Withell Dodgers, it was a back-and-forth affair.
After giving up two quick runs in the top half of the opening frame, NVM settled in defensively as Nic Iliyn tied it at two in the bottom of the third.
The Dodgers regained the lead from North Willamette Valley the following top half of the inning, but it was only by a run only to be outdone by the Single-A team as NVM led 4-3 entering the fourth inning.
Withnell knew that with Randy Brack on the other side of the field, despite if the team their facing is a Single-A or Triple-A American Legion ball-club, they’ll be ready to battle.
“Well anytime that we come here obviously they have a great coach, so we know that they’re going to be fighters and scrappers,” said the Dodgers Noah Boatwright. “But yeah, we definitely saw that if we don’t play our best baseball early…It’s a game of momentum, whoever takes the momentum, that’s who is going to run with the game.
“It’s not always the guys with the most talent, it’s just the guy with the momentum and keeps chugging.”
For North Willamette Valley which consist of ball-players from North Marion High School, the competitive start to the game leading by one was nice, but they need to sustain that for the whole game.
“It was nice with how we came out strong, but obviously we have to keep that through the entire game rather than four innings, no mental let-ups.”” said North Willamette Valley’s Andy Schmitz, who was playing in the infield for the first-time since arm surgery last summer.
What happened in the fifth-inning was a few bumps in the road in pitching and a few timely Dodger hits had Withnell to gain the lead significantly with a seven-run fifth inning as the Dodgers had taken some smart At-Bat approaches.
“It’s huge because, like I said we had what? Three or four hits going into that inning and then after that inning we almost doubled our hit totals,” said Boatwright. “I think it’s good that we changed our approach because what we were doing wasn’t working, we were getting out on our front foot and we were waiting back. But we got together as a team and had some good at-bats.”
Down 10-4 at this point, NWV regained some of their prior focus, allowing two runs in the sixth and one in the ninth, the Dodgers defense too settled in for the 13-4 victory to improve to 4-0 on the season, having played four games in three days.
“It’s definitely good to learn with a smile, we learned some things this weekend that though we still won, we know we still need to improve on certain things,” said Boatwright. “Like our at-bat approaches in that first-part of the game, our cohesiveness as a unit. We’re still trying to figure all that stuff out right now and to be able to win four-games in a row with three days practice.
“I mean we all started playing last week. So it’s going to be a long summer, I think it’s going to be a good one.”
Over the next several days themselves similarly, North Willamette Valley will play two more games; on Tuesday at West Linn and Thursday at home versus West Linn to start league play before hosting the Dirtbags next Monday at home.
And as they know, they need to start strong as they did Monday versus the Dodgers, but to carry that throughout the game instead of laying off the gas.
“That’s exactly what we need to do is to come out strong the first few innings and then carry that through the entire game rather than just the first few innings,” said Schmitz.
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Photos By Jeremy McDonald