Dr. Stewart’s has spent the last five days refining itself in preparation for the American Legion AAA baseball state tournament.
Now the Docs get to show how the reset time has spent.
They open the tournament, being played at Bill Gray Stadium at Legion Field in Stewart Park for the first time since 2007, at 7 p.m. Saturday against the Corvallis Gerding Builders Marketmen (24-18).
“We’ve worked two months for this,” Docs coach Scott Shaver said. “We’re either ready or we’re not. I think we’re ready and we get to do it on our home field.”
“(Today) is where everything comes together,” Dr. Stewart’s pitcher Cody Johnson said. The right-hander, a 2018 Roseburg High graduate, will start against Corvallis. “Everything we’ve been doing, everything we’ve been practicing comes together now.”
The Docs (22-20) ended the regular season on a four-game losing streak, being swept by Area 4 champion Medford. Johnson threw a three-hitter in the series finale and took a 1-0 loss when the Docs didn’t produce on offense behind him.
“Medford’s a good team and we had a good shot to win three out of four with them,” Shaver said. “They ran away in the second game, so it is what it is. You never want to drop four on your home field, but I thought we played fine.”
After being the anchor starter in each four-game Area 4 set, Johnson led the Docs in innings pitched (50) and strikeouts (45). His ERA of 3.360 is second on the team and tops among the top four starters. His WHIP (walks plus hits per innings pitched) is 1.480, easily the best on the team.
“We’ve had him at the back end of four-game sets, where your legs are kind of tired, and we’ve ran a defensive lineup behind him,” Shaver said. “We’re going to put more punch behind him and see what we can do.”
That will likely mean that Johnson will also be the first starting pitcher this season to hit for himself for the Docs. Shaver has used the designated hitter in the first 42 games, alternating between Luke Lucido and Brody Black. The starting shortstop when he’s not pitching, Johnson is the team’s RBI leader and is third for runs scored.
“We’ve had a chance to get our focus in check and get control of what we can control and be ready,” Johnson said. “I’m pretty excited to be able to start the game. Hopefully I’ll have my best stuff and come out and do my best for the team. It’s all about the team now, trying to string some wins together and hopefully do something.”
Shaver won’t set the lineup until about 15 minutes before game time. Centerfielder and leadoff hitter Garrett Russell suffered a knee injury at the end of the third game with Medford and has been hobbled for much of the week.
“We’re going to keep a close eye on Garrett,” Shaver said. “With all of his starts and stops — a lot of his game is based on speed — so he has to be 100 percent and he’s going to be a game-time decision.”
Reserve Drake Borschowa is also on the dinged list after dislocating his knee while playing for Dr. Randol’s late in the regular season. Borschowa is more questionable than Russell.
Shaver will be trusting the evidence of his eyes where Russell’s health is concerned.
“He could be losing a leg and he would tell me he’s good to go,” Shaver said. “That’s the kind of kid that he is, but Garrett won’t lie to me. He wants what’s best for the team and he understands that. If he’s right, he’ll be in the game, if not it’ll be Sunday.”
Win or lose, the Docs will play their second game at 7 p.m. Sunday, facing either the Hillsboro Barbers, the Area 2 champion, or Area 3 runner-up Dallas. Hillsboro and Dallas play at 1 p.m. Saturday.
The tournament will begin with Medford and Beaverton Post 124 meeting at 10 a.m. Area 3 champion Mid-Valley faces rival Salem Withnell Dodge at 4 p.m.
The Docs and Corvallis met twice during the regular season, with reach team winning on its home field. Dr. Stewart’s is 14-6 at home and won 13 straight at one point.
“We faced them here in a wood bat game and beat them here,” Lucido said. “We were able to beat them with the kind of bats that they used. We’re at home and using metal bats.”
Corvallis had to go three games to eliminate the Eugene Bi-Mart Challengers in the Corvallis Super Regional.
“Their pitchers all got rest, but just have them exhaust themselves for another day, I’m looking forward to that,” said Lucido.