As cars slowly streamed into the Baker Sports Complex parking lot Wednesday, fans began entering with lawn chairs in hand.
While preparing on the field, Al McCauley, assistant coach for Baker’s 18U summer baseball team, knew the Brewers were excited to be back on the field after the pandemic canceled the spring high school season.
That they were playing their rivals from La Grande added to the anticipation.
“We are looking at any day we can step on the field is a bonus for us right now so the kids were pretty excited that they got to play La Grande,” McCauley said.
The Brewers took advantage of the opportunity to sweep the doubleheader, 8-4 and 12-11.
In the opener Sam McCauley, the coach’s son who graduated last month, took the hill against the Legends.
Finding himself in the middle of a pitchers’ duel, Sam remained focused.
“Something that didn’t really go my way is I struggled a little bit getting behind in my counts,” Sam said. “I’ve worked on developing my changeup for a long time, and I finally was able to use it to the best of my abilities.”
Sam threw 5 shutout innings, striking out 11 Legends and walking just two.
Head coach Tim Smith was impressed by Sam’s performance in his first start of the abbreviated summer schedule, which started July 1 and will continue through Aug. 8.
“We didn’t get to see him in the spring, it was going to be that kind of year,” Smith said. “I was impressed with the way he came out, I thought he handled it well.”
Every pitcher’s job gets a lot easier when their team puts runs on the board, and the Brewers gave Sam a boost.
After scoring one run early, Baker broke the game open with 7 runs in the fourth inning to increase their lead to 8-0.
Smith was pleased with the performance at the plate by recent graduate Spencer Smith, the coach’s son, and Hayden Younger, who will be a junior this fall.
Smith went 2-for-4, including a 2-run homer, and had 3 RBIs.
Sam McCauley, Mason Van Arsdall and Zander Arriaga had two hits each.
Younger was 1-for-3 and drew one of Baker’s five walks.
“I was happy to see the bats come alive, I thought we swung it well,” Coach Smith said. “I thought we did a great job of rolling the order over.”
La Grande rallied late but Baker held off the Legends.
In a reversal of the opener, La Grande took an early 7-0 lead before Baker rallied.
“It maybe felt like a little bit of a letdown (and) they have some really good pitching,” Smith said.
The Brewers still trailed 10-2 in the sixth inning before rallying.
Sam McCauley and incoming senior Mason Van Arsdall had key hits as Baker came back to win 12-10 and complete the sweep.
Coach McCauley also credited Baker’s patience at the plate. The Brewers combined 17 walks and hit batters in the doubleheader.
“That’s what really got us back into the game, with some free passes and then got some timely hitting,” Coach McCauley said.
Sam McCauley was 3-for-4 with 2 RBIs and two runs scored. Jake Wright went 2-for-4, including a home run, and had 3 RBIs.
Van Arsdall drove in a pair of runs and Younger had an RBI.
Sam McCauley said that although he’s disappointed about missing his senior season, he’s excited about the direction Baker baseball is heading. He said he has seen major improvements from his younger teammates.
“Their progression of hitting is huge, they just need to keep the bats going and defensively they just need to keep pounding the zone,” Sam said.
“I think that is the best we’ve hit in maybe like ten games, and I’m glad it was against La Grande,” he said.
Baker’s 18U team will travel to Pendleton today to face the Buckaroos in a doubleheader starting at 1 p.m. Baker’s 16U team will travel to Pendleton Tuesday.