Cougars stumble in playoff race

With seven games remaining in the regular season, Clackamas Community College’s baseball team is struggling. With a record of 2-8 in their last 10 games, the Cougars have found themselves on a four game losing streak, falling back to fourth place in the South Region standings.

When Clackamas finished the series versus Mt. Hood Community College (12-23 overall, 10-13 in league,) they were also in the middle of a series against Linn-Benton Community College (32-2, 19-1). For all the success the Cougars had against Mt. Hood, it was the exact opposite versus Linn-Benton, Clackamas lost all five games and were outscored 41-12 in the series.

Now in the middle of a five game series versus Lane Community College, the Cougars are still struggling.Three games into the series the Cougars have been outscored 31-12.

“It’s definitely not one specific area [that’s going wrong],”freshman third baseman Nathan Loranger said. “Earlier in the season it felt like everything was coming into sync, but right now we’re kind of having a breakdown.”

In game one of the series the Cougars fell behind 8-3 in the seventh inning, but battled back in the eighth inning scoring three runs to tighten the score at 6-8. However, Clackamas was unable to hold Lane scoreless in the ninth, giving up two runs to widen the scoring gap to 10-6.

“[Lane] is a really good hitting team,” sophomore second baseman Berry Hunt said. “We need to get a spark under us and get the bats going and the pitching too.”

Game two and three of the series were played Monday at Clackamas Community College.

In game one sophomore pitcher Tyler Oscarson made his sixth start of the season. Pitching five innings, Oscarson walked three and gave up six runs. The Cougars scored three runs in the third to give Oscarson a little bit of run support, but still trailed 5-3, before Lane scored their last run off Oscarson in the top of the fifth inning.

“Right now I need to keep my pitch count down,” Oscarson said. “I’ve been going out there for five innings and throwing over 100 pitches every time.”

Freshman pitcher Derek Eubanks relieved Oscarson for the top of the sixth inning and kept Lane scoreless until the ninth inning, where the Cougars’ defense stumbled severely. After recording two outs, Loranger made a throwing error from third, Eubanks walked a batter, sophomore shortstop Renner Stecki committed a fielding error and Berry Hunt commited a fielding error. Lane scored two unearned runs before the nightmare inning ended for Clackamas.

“These long innings get us lazy defensively,” Hunt said. “When the balls get hit to our players sometimes they’re not ready for it.”

Clackamas failed to score in game one and lost 8-4.

Freshman pitcher Mason Schimmel started game two for Clackamas. Coming off back-to-back one-hitters, Schimmel was hoping for another strong outing, but Lane had his number early. Lane scored four runs in the third inning and Clackamas answered with two, but when Lane scored three runs in the fourth the Cougars couldn’t answer. Schimmel left the game in the fifth inning after Lane scored 10 runs and lead the game 10-2.

“[Lane] can hit, they hit the ball and hit it well,” Schimmel said. “It didn’t matter what I threw, they hit it.”

Freshman pitcher Cameron Gleason replaced Schimmel, but Lane added three more runs before the Cougars could get out of the inning. Trailing 13-2, the Cougars needed major run support, but failed to score and the game ended 13-2 in the fifth inning.

The Cougars have fallen to 10-13 in league and are in fourth place in the South Region, which is the last spot to qualify for postseason play, and Head Coach Jim Hoppel isn’t pleased with his team’s effort recently.

“[The] guys are just not playing like they should be,” Hoppel said. “I don’t know if they’re nervous or what, but we’re in a playoff run and they should be playing their best baseball, they should be and they’re not. I feel like we can do this and I just hope the guys feel that way.”

Clackamas travels to Lane on Thursday for game four and five in hopes of ending their losing streak and locking up their first postseason berth since 2009.

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Jacob Thompson