BARSTOW • It's still early in the baseball season, but things need to start coming together soon.
That was basically the sentiment expressed by Barstow Community College head baseball coach Mike Karpel after his team lost another close game on Tuesday, falling to Antelope Valley, 8-7.
"I'm just not seeing the progression I should," he said. "We have a young team and there's a learning curve, but you can say that about a lot of teams. We have to learn to adjust to this level. I thought we were playing on our heels today."
The Vikings are scoring runs, they're just giving too many away. As far as Karpel is concerned, the problem is with the 'freebies', things like errors, walks and hit batters. Just like in their home game last week against Irvine Valley, the Vikings jumped out to an early lead on Tuesday, then saw the freebies combine to erase that lead.
"We gave away 11 free bases. We made four errors, walked six and hit a batter," said the coach. "Six of their runs were based on freebies, so six of their eight runs they didn't really earn. If you give a team that many extra opportunities, it's going to be a rough road. If you lose the freebie war, you'll lose the game."
Barstow put up the first runs. After Vikings starter Mark Marinch set the Marauders down 1-2-3 in the top of the first inning, striking out two, the offense took over to score twice. Gabriel Soto led off with a single, followed by Dylan Baumgarte getting plunked, and when Antelope starter Jack Sheeley threw a wild pitch, the runners moved to second and third. Andres Ortiz brought home Soto with a ground out, and Dominick Monteiro hit an RBI single.
The Marauders got one back immediately on a one-out triple by Ryan Herrick, and Jacob Risinger's double to right in the second. There was another in the third, a run that scored on an error.
Scoring in the early innings but then giving runs back has been another problem for the Vikings.
"We score early, but then give up one or two right away," said Karpel. "When we have the lead we're playing with our backs against the wall instead of being the aggressor."
The Vikings kept the lead through four. Antelope scored in the third, but the home team collected two in the bottom half. Ortiz and Heriberto Orozco were both hit, with Monteiro driving in Ortiz for his second RBI of the afternoon, while Orozco scored on James Carraway's ground out.
Antelope had its biggest frame in the fifth, plating three runs to take the lead. There was a two-RBI shot up the middle by Aaron Owen, but those freebies also came into play, as there were three walks, one with the bases loaded.
Barstow got its last runs in the sixth. Again, there were back-to-back hit batsmen, this time Jayson Henderson and Robert Loerwald, who were then balked to second and third. They were singled home by Soto and Ortiz, which made it a new game, at 7-all.
The Marauders went quietly in the seventh, with Vikings pitcher Roman Davalos facing only four batters, striking out two. But in the eighth, singles by Sho Serrano and Steven Tremlin along with an error led to a run, which turned out to be the margin of victory for Antelope.
Despite the miscues, there was also some good glovework on display by Barstow. Center fielder Soto made nice running catches for the final out of the second and first out of the third, third baseman Monteiro went deep into foul territory to haul in a pop-up for the second out of the fifth, and catcher Henderson threw out a would-be basestealer in the sixth.
Marinch (4.1ip, 6r, 5h, 3bb, 6k) was relieved by Corey Verret (.2ip, 1r, 2h, 2bb), Davalos (3ip, 1r, 2h, 1bb, 4k) and Adam Thompson (1ip, 0r, 0h). Reliever Zack Myas tossed the last three innings for Antelope, giving up just one hit, walking one and fanning one, for the win.
The game began Foothill Conference play for the Vikings, who are looking for their first win.
"I still believe we can play with anyone. Our pitchers have good stuff, but have to limit the walks; we can hit, but have to be more patient at the plate, we end up pressing too much," said Karpel. "At the end of the day, we have to learn to win at this level. It's not like the team isn't rying. It's frustrating because no one likes losing, but we have to keep it in perspective.
"We'll gather ourselves and be ready this Thursday. We'll come out ready to play, there's no doubt."
These two teams will be seeing a lot of each other in the next few days. Barstow will be at Antelope Valley on Thursday, with the next home game coming up on Saturday, when the Vikings again host the Marauders for a noon start.