COOS BAY — Saturday was the first time they put the flag pole up.
It was the home opener for a team with 29 of 31 players entering their first college baseball season at Southwestern Oregon Community College, and everything is so new the Lakers are still checking things off the list. First time raising the flag. Check. First time warming up in the home bullpen before a game, or used the home dugout. Got it.
First home win? Got that, too, after the Lakers split with the NCAA Division III Pacific University’s JV team on Saturday, dropping the opener 12-5 before taking the nightcap 9-1 in an intermittent drizzle.
That was familiar for the Lakers, the playing baseball part. That’s nothing new, and as far as lone returning pitcher Will Shaw is concerned, that’s how it’ll stay.
“There’s nothing new,” he said. “It’s a new start, but nothing’s new. It’s a new group of guys. We gotta play together.”
“It’s refreshing,” freshman two-way player Nick Davis added. “It’s just nice to be a new team, come together. We wanted to restart this year and start new traditions.”
SWOCC fields a lineup that was, at least on Saturday, deep and capable from top to bottom. Tarquin Daley had four RBIs in the nightcap win, using a two-run single out of the seventh spot in the batting order to give SWOCC a 4-0 lead after the bottom of the first.
In the opener, the 6-7-8 spots produced five hits and all five RBIs. But the top has some hot guys, too.
Ryan Merino was hot all day, going 6-for-9 with three RBIs, three doubles and a run scored. Davis, who spent the day as a DH but will start games on the mound, was 3-for-9, two of which were doubles, with three RBIs. And Conner Larson was for 4-for-8 with an RBI, a triple and three runs.
“The boys can play,” Shaw said. “They get their mind right, get their mentality right — the boys can play. I’m excited to see that when everything clicks for us.”
The Lakers have only been playing games for a week, and have gone 2-4 in that stretch, but it will take some time for SWOCC’s starting pitching to get its sea legs.
Shaw, SWOCC’s only returning hurler, threw only 4.1 innings in the opener, a Makoa Nakamura two-run homer to right spoiling an otherwise decent outing. But the Lakers went piecemeal in the nightcap, going with Ryan Driscoll and Cameron Loesche for three innings apiece before turning it over to Bryce Moore and Jaydon Miller for the final three frames.
Manager Dave Deutschman said it’s all a part of guys figuring out their roles and where they slot, but also getting innings for them early in the season. He isn’t at all concerned with his depth, as he has at least one quality starter in Davis who didn’t throw on Saturday.
“We have four more starters that didn’t touch the field,” Deutschman said. “We didn’t use them in a relief-type role at all. Just want to get guys as much work as we can in different situations whether we’re up in a game, down in a game (or a) close situation. We’re gonna have guys in different roles so we can establish a bullpen. That’s huge. And us not having to play two games (Sunday) allows us a little bit more wiggle room with how we wanted to construct it.”
But there certainly is still a bunch of newness around — new people to meet and spend copious amounts of time around, new trips to make for games and new hotels to stay in.
But also new formats. Doubleheaders are long days, especially considering the NWAC plays two nine-inning double headers, not shortening them to seven as is common in some summer leagues.
Deutshman said it’s about “staying plugged in” throughout, remaining attentive in all pertinent moments from start to end, be they at practice or at games.
“It’s a long day,” he said, “and that’s how we practice. Staying plugged in from the moment we get there to the moment we leave, we’re trying to stay plugged in and complete the task for that day.”
Saturday could be an indication of that, as the Lakers’ self-admitted lack of energy in the opener led to being doubled up. But Deutschman talked about being “plugged in” at the intermission and SWOCC responded with a clean top of the first and four in the bottom and ran away with the win, scoring two runs in the ultimately inconsequential eighth inning.
That was all done by freshman. All but one at-bat, which statistically was a just a plate appearance, on Saturday were taken by freshman. All but 4 1-3 innings were pitched by freshman.
“This year our quote is ‘Be Someone,’” Davis said. “I think everyone bought in and that’s our goal. To turn around this program and start something new.”
Pacific (JV) 12, SWOCC 5
Will Shaw, Clayton Lewis (5), Braden Ray (6), Brandon Leal (9) and Chandler Kocham; Josiah Gilbert, Joey Angyus (7), CJ Friedman (7) and Gavin Bullock.2B-Pac: Ian Blair. 2B-SWOCC: Ryan Merino, Nick Davis 2. 3B-SWOCC: Conner Larson. HR-Pac: Makoa Nakamura.
SWOCC 9, Pacific (JV) 1
Ryan Driscoll, Cameron Loesche (4), Bryce Moore (7), Jaydon Miller (9) and Christian McCarroll; Ryan Carle, Liam Cammall (6), Josh Escobar (7), Tyler Brown (8) and Garrison Krohn. 2B-Pac: Trainor Warren. 2B-SWOCC: Ryan Merino 2, Conner Larson, Christian McCarroll.