Pickles' pitching picks up where it left off
The Portland Pickles' schedule had a mess made of it when three consecutive games against the Wenatchee AppleSox were called off due to rain over the weekend.
The change in routine and damp field did not seem to bother the Pickles' pitchers in Monday's rescheduled doubleheader, however. Portland held Wenatchee to three total hits in 3-0 and 9-0 victories at Walker Stadium.
The bullpen did not allow a hit in either game, and the AppleSox struck out 19 times.
"Those guys did a fantastic job being prepared," Pickles manager Justin Barchus said of his mound men. "The thing we have is a little bit of experience and a little bit of a bulldog mentality out of our pitching staff."
The Pickles (6-2) have the best record in the 11-team West Coast League.
"Obviously, things are going well right now, so it's easy to get on the train," Barchus said. "But I have no concern whatsoever that when things aren't going well, these guys are going to be right there with us."
Both Monday games were seven-inning affairs, with attendance at 1,070 and 1,167. Sunday's rained-out game will be rescheduled.
The Pickles had last played on Wednesday in a 4-1 road loss to the Cowlitz Black Bears. With three-game series against the Yakima Valley Pippins and Bellingham Bells still ahead this week, Portland will play eight games in seven days before its next day off.
Players and coaches arrived at Walker Stadium hours before each scheduled game, Friday through Sunday, and went through normal warm-ups, waiting to see if the field would be playable.
After bad news surfaced each day, pitchers threw in the outfield in the rain and position players drove to Vancouver, Washington, to assistant coach Mark Magdaleno's house to hit in his batting cage.
"The thing is, people think, 'Oh, you got rained out. You got a day off," Barchus said. "But we don't. Everybody's still got to be out here for two to three hours. And you've got to mentally prepare. It's not like an off day, where you think, 'I don't have to play baseball today.'"
The Pickles have five scheduled doubleheaders in which they will take on the Gresham GreyWolves in an exhibition game before playing a WCL contest in the evening. Gresham competed in the WCL from 2016-2017 and is playing an independent schedule this year.
Barchus said it will be easier to handle doubleheaders once the Pickles' roster fills out. His plan is to run out players who are not seeing as many at-bats or innings in league play for games against Gresham and to rest starters for the WCL contest.
"It's college baseball. There's long road trips, long bus rides, and some of these guys want to play in the minor leagues, so they're going to have to get used to it," he said.
Portland took control of both games against Wenatchee early on Monday. The Pickles built leads of 2-0 (afternoon) and 3-0 (night) after the first three innings.
Right-hander Connor Pellerin (Tulane) started the first game on the hill for the Pickles. He struck out eight, did not issue a walk and scattered two hits over four innings.
Soon-to-be sophomore John Beller (USC) then finished off Wenatchee to pick up the save.
Pellerin and Beller combined to throw six innings of one-run ball against the Port Angeles Lefties on June 2. The left-handed Beller started that game.
Barchus said designated starters will rotate between starting and relief appearances.
Freshman Damon Treadwell (Cal) got the starting nod for Monday's nightcap. He pitched the first three innings in only his second appearance since undergoing Tommy John surgery at the end of 2016. Treadwell threw four scoreless innings against Port Angeles on June 3.
Colby Wyatt (Cornell) retired the side in order in fourth inning before left-hander Brad McVay (University of Portland, formerly Milwaukie High) closed it out and claimed the win.
McVay has posted consecutive three-inning, scoreless relief appearances.
He said mixing in his changeup with his fastball and keeping his fastball down in the zone has fueled his early success. McVay, who works quickly and gets ahead of hitters, also credited working with Pickles pitching coach Zach Miller.
"Not being too fine — I had a problem with that last year," he said. "They've still got to hit the pitch that you throw. And pitch sequencing. He's a pretty good pitch caller, so I like what he's doing."
The infield accounted for 10 of the Pickles' 12 runs, including eight in Game 2.
Sam Novitske, a soon-to-be freshman for Oregon, got the start at second base in Monday's opener. He knocked in two runs to break out of a 1-for-10 slump. Novitske also delivered a two-run double in the sixth inning of the second game to put Portland ahead 8-0.
With two more Pac-12 infielders on their way to Portland, Novitske said he is focused on staying positive at the plate and that the competition for at-bats helps the team.
"It creates that competitive environment. We all just try and push each other and help the ballclub win," he said.
Center fielder Joey Cooper (Cal State Northridge) hit a solo home run in the second inning of Game 1 and added a fifth-inning RBI single in Game 2. Cooper is hitting .461 for the Pickles, with six extra-base hits in 27 at-bats.
Portland's infield was bolstered by the debut of second baseman Carson Breshears (Gonzaga) in the second game against Wenatchee (2-3). The former UO infielder and 2016 Pickle hit an RBI single in the second inning and lashed an RBI double over the right fielder's head in the fourth.
Breshears, a soon-to-be senior, can play in the outfield as well.
"Breshears is great at second base," Barchus said. "Provides leadership, started all year for Gonzaga."
Third baseman Daniel Lopez (University of Portland) had three RBIs in the second game.
Portland is two games in front of Cowlitz for first place in the South Division. The Pickles' 1.48 ERA and 1.67 opponent batting average are also league bests.
Barchus says he measures the team first by its culture, though.
"Winning makes it easier," he said, "but these guys have been great. Everybody gets along great. You really don't find the true character of your team until they have to fight some adversity. But I have all the confidence in the world these guys will maintain that great team culture."
Yakima Valley enters Tuesday's series opener with a 6-3 record and first in the North Division. First pitch is 7 p.m. at Walker Stadium.