South Fork Baseball Report
Now at 5-5 overall and 1-3 in the Humboldt del Norte Little Four Conference, a repeat of last year’s league championship is not out of reach, but will be a steeper climb than what was anticipated early in the year.
The Cubs are not only up against the unstoppable rain gods this season, but because the high school gymnasium is being renovated they have nowhere to go but the undersized former junior high gym when they can’t practice outside, while many other schools in the HDN have access to multiple full-sized gyms, indoor batting cages, and other facilities that don’t disrupt the consistency of practice that baseball requires.
Starting with the disappointing split against league rival Hoopa two weeks ago and continuing with the loss of a double header to McKinleyville last Saturday, Olsen still finds a way to stay positive and keep focused on what the team needs to do to play to its considerable potential.
“This has been a reality check. Our pitching hasn’t been too sharp in the last couple double headers, and we’re not getting the production up and down the line-up that we got last year.”It didn’t help that ace right-hander junior Scott Coffelt suffered an injury to his right shoulder and missed some starts. And now that the last 8 league games will be crammed into the final two weeks of the season, the new pitch-count rule will make it hard for Olsen to throw his best pitchers when he needs them against other Little Four teams.
Yet there are some bright spots to be celebrated at this point in a frustrating season. Sophomore lead-off hitter Cooper Scott has been the one player who hasn’t gotten rusty over the long weather interruptions. With a history of playing competitive ball over many years, Scott’s swing stays fresh and baseball instincts are in his blood. “Cooper is doing everything you could ask a lead-off hitter to do. He hasn’t struck out yet, he’s walked 11 times, been hit by a pitch twice, and he’s stolen 18 out of 19 bases. His on-base-percentage is between .650 and .700, and he stays in the groove.” He also delivered an outstanding debut pitching performance to pull out a win against Hoopa two weeks ago when Coffelt was unable to start. “That was a very pleasant surprise,” said Olsen.
Olsen is also pleased with the contribution he’s getting from his freshmen. “These three guys are stepping up to fill the spots vacated by three very strong seniors.” Acknowledging that it’s asking a lot of his youngest guys, Olsen knows that the experience Aiden Butterworth-Bignon, Kaydon Pogue and Derek Baldwin are getting will season them much more than if they were riding the bench, and will pay off in the long run.Sophomore southpaw CJ Van Meter is starting to find his way out of a slump at the plate. “Hitting clean-up, he’s getting pitched differently this year,” said Olsen. “But against McKinleyville, though he was only 1 for 4, he hit the ball hard every at-bat and he knows that means he’s starting to find his swing again.”
Catcher sophomore Cody Wyatt is also adjusting to being pitched differently. “He’s starting to use the whole field.” He had three hits against Mack, including an opposite field double.
Junior Aaron Etherton is another bright spot on the Cubs roster. The fleet-footed outfielder hits the ball a long way when he makes contact, can catch when it’s needed, and did well on the mound against Mack, giving up just a solo home run, and striking out 3 in three innings of relief in Saturday’s nightcap.
Coffelt started the second game against Mack and while he didn’t have his best stuff, he knocked off the rust and will be ready to start against st. Bernard’s this Saturday. Coffelt, hitting third in the line-up has had a consistent bat, using the whole field. He’s hitting .344 and leads the team in RBI with 15.
First baseman senior Ipo Savoie has been another pleasant surprise when he’s taken the mound, giving up just two hits in relief against Mack in game 1. “He’s stepped it up with his leadership, too,” says Olsen.Sophomore Orin Paula had a pinch-hit single against Mack, and has battled illness through much of the early season. However, his dedication to the sport extends beyond his commitment to the high school squad. Paula spent much of his spring break participating as an assistant in a little league skills clinic held in Redway. Three other Cubs, Coffelt, Van Meter, and Wyatt, also helped out at the Little League sponsored event that brought pro-level players to Wood Field in Redway every morning during last week’s spring break.
Paula enjoyed participating in the clinic because he recalls how much it helped him to be able to do a similar program when he was in little league. He’s played baseball for 10 years and subs on the 2017 Cubs as a first baseman and outfielder.
There were kids from age 4-12 at the clinic and Paula threw the younger ones fly balls and shagged and fielded balls from the older players. Paula remarked on how much the little league players look up to the high school players.
The Cubs have a long climb back into the league race and the march to play in the post-season. If the weather starts to cooperate, and players get the consistent practice they need, South Fork will have the elements needed to make the push. They will play a double header at St. Bernard’s this Saturday, starting at 1 p.m. at the campus in Eureka.