Saturday, April 16, 2016
So far this season, the players on the HRV baseball team have done exactly what has been expected of them by Head Coach Erich Harjo.
Though it may seem surprising to those who followed the Eagles’ 5A state championship run last season, or to those who thought HRV’s bullpen might have suffered with the departures of star pitchers Ryan Ward and Kam Walker due to graduation, the HRV team is statistically even better than last year’s squad.
At this same point last year, marking the conclusion of the team’s nonleague schedule, HRV had an 8-5 record and was ranked eighth in 5A. This year, the team is 10-3 and is ranked fourth. Two of those 2015 losses were brutal 8-0 and 12-0 shutouts sustained at the Coach Bob Invitational in Arizona. The other losses were a two-run defeat in another game at the Coach Bob Invitational, a 4-1 loss to Redmond, and a 3-1 loss to Summit.
This year, the team grabbed second place at the Coach Bob Invite, losing by one run in the championship game and went 2-2 in the tournament. The Eagles lost by two runs in one game of the tourney and one run in the championship. HRV’s only other loss in the nonleague season came in a 6-5 decision with Sandy — the only Oregon team HRV has lost to this season.
Since that loss to Sandy, HRV has gone on a four-game winning streak, recently crushing Redmond 13-3 during a trip down to Deschutes County on Wednesday. Harjo said the team was “frustrated” by Redmond in the past two years, losing to the panthers in nonleague games in 2015 and 2014.
Skyler Hunter, fresh off a grand slam in HRV’s 12-2 drubbing of Mountain View on April 8, hit a three-run homer in the game with Redmond. Isaiah Enriquez, one of the many talented pitchers at HRV’s disposal this season, threw a complete game, surrendering only five hits.
With a nonleague season like that, Harjo is raring to go when it comes to starting Columbia River Conference play, which kicks off this weekend with a doubleheader against the Pendleton Buckaroos starting at noon in Hood River.
“I’m excited to get into league finally and start playing for a little more… we’re really confident right now. We’re swinging the bat well and playing defense,” he said.
The CRC is fairly competitive this season — all four teams are at least in the Top 20 or better out of 33 teams in 5A. Though the CRC is the smallest conference in 5A, Harjo believes it is one of the most competitive.
“I feel like our conference every year produces good baseball. I’d take all of our teams out of four teams out of the Mid-Willamette or the Northwest Oregon Conference,” he said. “I feel we stack up well against the state. It makes our league look really credible.”
The CRC hasn’t changed much this season and the Eagles can expect to see familiar faces out on the diamond over the next month. The Bucks, currently at a 9-4 record and a No. 16 ranking, have historically given HRV the most trouble in league competition and Harjo expects the same this season. Hermiston (7-5, No. 13) and The Dalles (6-6, No. 19) are no slouches either.
“I feel like we know what to expect a little more. There wasn’t much turnover with Hermiston’s team or Pendleton’s team or even The Dalles — they pretty much have the same guys,” he noted. “I really think that Pendleton is our toughest competition again and Hermiston is right there. But I feel good about it.”
After playing Pendleton in a doubleheader this Saturday, HRV will face the Bucks again this Tuesday with a game played in Pendleton that starts at 4:30 p.m.
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