PENDLETON — Before his team’s doubleheader with Mt. Spokane on Wednesday, Hodgen Red Bulls coach Travis Zander posted updated statistics for his players in the home dugout. The newest numbers included the four losses and scoring drought that was the Red Bull’s performance at the Vallivue Tournament in Caldwell, Idaho, last weekend.
The stats were a glaring reality that the batters had already known, but reading them, tangibly printed for all to see, was a different kind of motivation.
“They wanted to turn them around,” Zander said. “They buried them. They said, ‘Screw it, we want to see different numbers.’ ”
Pendleton would split with the Wild, based in Spokane, Wash., losing the first game 12-10 and winning 14-4 in a six-inning contest.
The first game started in a blur of Red Bull bats as the home team scored seven runs over the first three innings to take a 7-2 lead. The first four batters all came around to score in the bottom of the first inning, three of them on one swing by right fielder Grant Klopmeyer.
His homer was the product of identifying a dragging cog in the mechanics of his swing with the coaches and trying to adjust.
“I think just getting enough hacks in and getting in the cage and working harder helped,” Klopmeyer said. “I’ve been getting my foot down earlier in swings.”
But despite how things started, a pair of five run innings by Mt. Spokane helped stretch the Red Bulls’ losing streak to six games. Uncharacteristically shaky defense and pitching helped the Wild score three unearned runs and take the lead for good after the top of the sixth inning.
Pitching arms have kept the Red Bulls in games this season when the offense has struggled to find itself, Zander said. Wednesday’s games looked like the exact opposite.
Alex Schuerman, head coach for the Wild, said he knew the kind of pitching Zander normally trots out to the mound. His boys would need to score in bunches if they got the Red Bulls staff on the ropes, especially after trailing early.
“Every inning we needed to keep hitting,” Schuerman said. “Even though we were down, there’s a reason you play seven innings.”
Game 2 began under similar circumstances as the Red Bulls scored a pair in the bottom of the first inning. But this time when Mt. Angel started to chip away at the lead, Pendleton didn’t let up.
The team scored three runs in each the third and fourth innings before really taking off in the sixth while already leading 9-4. With the bases loaded and only one out, Taylor Hillmick broke an 0-for-4 game slump for a two-RBI single. Connor Johnson followed that up with a triple, his third hit of the game.
“I think we’re coming this weekend to the Walla Walla tournament ready,” Johnson said. “We’re hitting the ball well. We haven’t hit this well since, well really since we started the season.”
The Red Bulls start the tournament in Washington Friday at 11:45 a.m. Games continue through Sunday.
Contact AJ Mazzolini at firstname.lastname@example.org or 541-966-0839.