By Jeremy McDonald
MONROE, Ore.– Many have said through the ages, ‘Never Say Die’ when times get tough and your back is against the wall.
For St. Paul baseball, they entered the Top of the Seventh inning down 11-0 and their chances to win seemingly bleak as they came in after Campbell Smith and company came into the dugout from the field.
Coach Julio Vela called his team in before going back out with three outs left in their season and told them just to have fun when they head back out there to hit.
But more pressure built as the Buckaroos got two outs on the board within their first two batters with Spencer Curtis coming to the plate, Curtis kept St. Paul’s season alive with a hit.
Curtis’ hit was followed by Zach Brentano RBI hit to get the Bucks on the board now down 10.
Weird thing about these moments, some teams could shy away knowing they got that one run to avoid the shutout and call it a season, not St. Paul however as they kept battling.
“That speaks a ton about the character of the guys in this club, I’ve coached a lot of teams and the character of this ball-club is just outstanding. It wasn’t about ‘me’ it was about ‘us’, that’s the mentality that each guy had and I think that was what we were seeing in the seventh inning that we didn’t see in one-through-six that it was about us and they were just cheering for each other and helping each other and it wasn’t not ‘oh it’s my turn’, it’s ‘hey it’s your turn, let’s do it. Let’s do this’,” said Vela.
“This is a character bunch, it really is and I couldn’t be more proud of them of how they finished. Certainly it would have been better to be practicing tomorrow, but at the same time I couldn’t be more proud of how they fought there at the end there.”
TJ Crawford handed the Buckaroos their second run that made it 11-2 with a RBI single as Justin Herberger loading up the bases when the flood gates just tore open for the Buckaroos.
Campbell Smith brings two in with a RBI single with Rawley Koch juicing up the bases once more moments later with Holden Smith bringing two more in to make it 11-6 as the Buckaroos refuse to go into the night quietly as their fan-base that made the trip to Monroe, mixed in with their dugout excitement, continued to fuel the momentum train with the Dragons looking whichever to slow them down.
“It was just surreal, everyone was hitting the ball hard and things were happening. It just felt good,” said Brentano on the magical inning as Jaidyn Jackson put the Bucks back into another favorable bases loaded situation with a new arm coming into the game with the game at 11-8 at this point.
Not even a few pitches in with the new pitcher in front of them with runners at second and third, a balk was called on Monroe that brought a run that was followed by Brentano forcing an error at shortstop during his second at-bat of the inning to bring in St. Paul’s tenth run of the inning as it seemed as it this was the year that the Buckaroos will finally snap the playoff drought now down 11-10 with the tying run on the base-paths.
Sadly, it was not mention to be as a ground-ball in the infield was turned into the final out of the game that ended the rally, the season and continued the streak of heartbreak for the St. Paul baseball program.
And as they shook hands with the Monroe team that they got wheeling on their heels there in the seventh inning, the Bucks fans were cheering for their boys for fighting until that last out. Some of the clapping fans were on their feet for their boys in the Gray and Blue uniforms.
They wouldn’t need fuel, they got plenty of that. But, with five seniors in Campbell and Holden Smith, Bradey Weise, Spencer Curtis and Cody Thompson the lone players they’ll be losing entering next season with a strong core group of players returning, they’ll be jacked when February, 2019 rolls around.
“I think we’re going to be jacked for it regardless of what happen but even more now. We jsut got to avenge that and come back. St. Paul has never won a playoff game and was hoping it happen this year but maybe it will next year we’ll see. Just put in work and what else can you do,” said the junior Brentano.
Vela is already expecting to hear from his players this off-season looking to get some extra hacks at the ball as they prepare to break the streak next season with the returners that they have coming back after this 15-4 season and this strong finish to this game.
And with guys like a Jackson, Brentano and Herberger, who play other sports outside of baseball, this off-season is going to be big.
“I think that’s what we’re looking for and that’s what we talked about out there,” starts Vela. “Seniors, we’re going to miss you, everyone else look forward to come back and pick right on up from where we left off.
“That finish right there, will garner me a lot of phone calls in the off-season of ‘hey coach, I want to go hit’. They want to go it and when it’s not Fall season I can see two guys-a-day according to OSAA and I’ll get calls four-nights-a-week ‘hey coach, I want to go hit. I want to go to the cages and hit’ and it’s just the way they are, they’re just a good bunch of guys.”
The season may be over, but the work never is as the Buckaroos enter the off-season a wee-bit sooner than they wanted Wednesday afternoon. But they certainly ended their season with a bang.
Photos By Jeremy McDonald