With 14 games left in the regular season, Dr. Stewart’s coach Jeremiah Robbins and his staff are still trying to discover the right buttons to push to get the Docs firing on all cylinders.
Robbins knows there’s a wealth of talent on this roster. He’s built championship teams before and knows what to look for. Yet, it’s the intangibles that go along with each specific team that has the coach still scratching his head.
“We’ve struggled with that all year,” Robbins said of the mental side of the game. “That’s one thing that’s kind of got us as a staff scratching our heads a little bit. We’ve got all the pieces, they just don’t come together.”
Monday night was another example where all the pieces struggled to come together. The Docs were swept 4-1 and 18-8 at home by Area 4 leader Willamette Valley and fell six games behind the Titans in the race for the league crown.
In both games, the turning point came down to one big inning that tipped the scales in the Titans’ direction.
“Wasn’t much positive from (Monday’s) action,” Robbins said after delivering another lengthy postgame speech to his club. “I’m hoping it’s a wake up call down the back stretch.”
Willamette Valley (20-9-1, 12-2 Area 4) captured a 3-0 lead in the first inning of game one off Docs starter Jace Stoffal. The Titans got three straight singles to open the game and take a 1-0 lead. A walk and another single brought two more runs to the plate before the Docs had even recorded the first out.
Stoffal settled in after the first inning and allowed just three hits and one unearned run over the next five frames, while striking out seven.
His performance kept the game close, but the Docs (17-13, 6-8) couldn’t find their rhythm on offense. Jett Black drove in the Docs’ lone run on a two-out single in the third.
Game two saw the Docs fall behind 4-0 after Willamette Valley scored twice in the first and added two more in the third. Dr. Stewart’s cut the deficit in half with two runs in the home half of the third inning on a single by Doran Gillespie.
But everytime the Docs appeared to be grabbing the momentum, they’d give it right back. The Titans stretched the lead to 8-4 in the fourth with four runs on three hits and a pair of Docs errors.
Roseburg responded by scoring five runs in the fourth to get to within 8-7. Gillespie drove in two with a triple, but once again Willamette Valley countered. The Titans came back to score seven runs in the fifth inning off reliever Garrett Zeimet and take command of the game.
All seven runs came with two outs and the Docs only allowed two hits to the Titans in the inning. Zeimet issued four walks and tossed multiple wild pitches to help the Titans round the bases. A fielding error by second baseman Luke Van Norman also allowed the inning to continue.
The losses to Willamette Valley followed a lackluster trip to Corvallis for the Mickey Riley Star Spangled Tournament last week, where the Docs finished with a 2-2 record. Robbins repeatedly mentioned that the Docs gave away a couple of games in the tournament and continued to point to the same intangibles he has all summer.
“It’s been a weird season for sure,” Robbins said. “Especially coming back and being back with the high school-aged kids. Trying to get to understand them a bit and figure out what makes them tick.”
“We’ve got 16 guys that I think want to win baseball games, but we’ve got to get them over the hump.”
The Docs will continue their league season with another doubleheader against second-place Eugene (24-10, 10-2) on Tuesday. The Challengers swept Grants Pass in a league twin bill on Monday to remain one-game back of the Titans for the league title.
Game one of the doubleheader is scheduled to get underway at 6 p.m. from Swede Johnson Stadium at North Eugene High.
W. Valley 300 100 0 — 4 8 1
Roseburg 001 000 0 — 1 7 4
Wonham and Brown; Stoffal, Anderson (7) and Six. WP — Wonham. LP — Stoffal (2-2).
W. Valley 202 470 3 — 18 11 1
Roseburg 002 500 1 — 8 12 3
Sayles, Hart (5), Davis (6) and Burke; Hope, Zeimet (5), Pettibone (5), Luther (7) and Six. WP — Sayles. LP — Hope (2-2). 2B — Hart (WV), Joseph (WV), Wonham (WV), Johnson (R). 3B — Gillespie (R). HR — Burke (WV).