ENTERPRISE — The scoreboard may not have proven it, but Jim Nave is seeing improvement on the diamond.
On Sunday, July 19, the Wallowa Valley Team 2 — made up of 14- and 15-year-olds — played a doubleheader at Jensen Ball Fields in Enterprise. It lost both games, but showed continued progress, Nave said.
The team dropped its first game to the Tri-Cities Reign, 21-1. Wallowa Valley’s sole score came from Gabe Nobles who walked, and then stole his way around the bases early in the game. The team racked up four hits, which came from Cody Fent, Gavin Stecher, Tyler Knapp and Maclane Melville. All were singles.
But a different team took the field for its second game against Pendleton. This time the players made diving catches, hauled in hard-hit fly balls, stole bases and racked up 17 hits, including a scorching double by Maclane Melville in the fourth inning, in a close 7-5 loss to Pendleton. Strong pitching performances by Wallowa Valley’s Drew Beachy and Melville helped keep Pendleton in check.
Nave said that his team of young players is improving.
“A lot of these kids played Little League before this, and they mostly played in the infield,” he said. “So playing the outfield is new and different. It requires some new skills. They are catching on.”
Nave noted that both the Pendleton and Tri-Cities teams represented much larger communities.
“They probably had a hundred kids to choose from,” he said. “Here, we take every kid who wants to play. Summer baseball is an important learning experience for our players. These kids will be the JV team for the schools next year.”
The older Wallowa Valley Team 1, composed of 16-to 18-year-olds, played a doubleheader in La Grande on Wednesday, July 15. It dropped both games, losing to Pendleton, 13-12, and 12-2 to La Grande.
“In both of those games, Trace Evans pitched a phenomenal game,” Nave said. “In the Pendleton game, we figured that we gave up eight unearned runs due to errors and making bad plays. So we should have won that game easily — if we’d played better.”
Team 1 co-captain Flynn Nave said that the heat in La Grande impacted the team. He said the team struggled after a missed fly ball. Repeated infield errors compounded the problem, and Wallowa Valley lost control of the game.
Still, there were some bright spots.
“Trace (Evans) pitched a lot of strikeouts, and had batters just hitting fly balls,” Flynn Nave said. “And I made three solo double plays. I think it’s good to play teams that are better than us. It makes us better players. It makes us elevate our game.”
Wallowa Valley Team 1 plays a doubleheader with Baker City at Jensen Ball Field in Enterprise starting at 3 p.m. on Friday, July 24.
“We beat Baker City in Heppner two weeks ago,” Flynn Nave said. “We are looking forward to doing that again.”