By Jeremy McDonald
AURORA, Ore.— McKay and Chemeketa-grad Austin Brown had to slowdown his pitching mechanics to adjust to the new rules this summer prior to the Portland Gherkins Opening Day game with the Portland Pickles Saturday night at North Marion High School.
In front him as he entered the 0-0 ballgame with the Pickles, were big-time Division-1 athletes from University of Portland, University of Oregon, Oregon State University, Wofford and NAIA’s Westmont College. But the former Scotsmen and Storm pitcher adjusted to his new mechanics over the next three innings on the bump.
“There’s a little bit of a learning curve to it just because you’re use to one way. But it’s something I’ve been working on over the summer and just came back to that normal motion. There’s still a little bit I’d like to work on, but I like how it’s coming so far,” said Brown, who pitched two-and-two-third, striking out two.
“It’s just pretty awesome just being up there. I don’t like thinking about it any differently than pitching at Chemeketa against the other guys, I just think of it as the same thing and do what I can.”
The future Eastern Oregon University pitcher gave up two earned runs in the sixth inning before exiting with two outs on the board, but the Gherkin defense held the bats to those two runs in the contest.
In the outfield during the sixth there was a familiar voice from South Salem going:
“I got you….yep!…atta boy!”
It was Sean Alvarado.
The Saxon-grad had just entered the game in the sixth inning in Left Field as the lights at the fame Bob Brack Field were beginning to turn-on and began to illuminated the diamond below. It was very surreal said Alvarado facing the talent in front of him.
“Playing defense, definitely expecting that ball. There was one that went over my head and over the fence,” smiled and joked Alvarado. “Just being out there, just being surrounded by the potential that is draftable, that is projectable…it’s definitely going to make you better. It’s definitely going to make yourself, the people around you better. It’s was very surreal almost,”
Christian Cooney from the University of Portland and a Central Catholic-graduate had tied up the game at one with a solo home run over the left field fence. Miles Norman scored the first-run of the year in the top half of the sixth to hand the Gherkins a brief 1-0 lead.
The Pickles would get another run off a CJ Rivers RBI single before Zack Hart, who came in for Brown prior to Rivers at-bat, got the Portland Pickles farm-system out of the bind down one.
Hart would pitch the next two outs before McNary-grad Carl Rumbaugh came in for Hart, pitching the final inning-and-a-third, keeping the Pickles off-guard and the Gherkins a chance into the ninth.
“It was crazy. It’s so nice to get back out here next to the guys and get stuff done. My first performance in three-, four months, I couldn’t ask for anything better,” said Rumbaugh, who struck out one in an inning-and-a-third. “Now I’m looking forward to get my velocity back up, hit my spots. I’m just so glad to get back out here, competing with the team.”
The Gherkins loaded up the bases with their first five batters. The Wierstra twins of Hunter and Noah of North Marion and Patrick Muskat were on the basepaths, but the Portland Gherkins couldn’t capitalize on their baserunners as the Pickles got out of the jam for the 2-1 Opening Day win.
“Just trying to get to the next guy. It’s a big thing in baseball is getting to the next guy and see what he does,” said Alvarado, who was in the on-deck circle when the game ended. “In that moment, it was definitely bittersweet.”
Alvarado was 0-1 on the day. Muskat and Rowan Ramsay each collected a hit for the Gherkins.
University of Hawaii’s Aaron Davenport struck out ten in five innings of work.
Photos By Jeremy McDonald