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by: TIMES PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - The Cedar Mill 11-12 All-Stars celebrate James Porters solo shot to left in the sixth inning of the squads 6-5 loss to Grants Pass on Friday.

Cedar Mill will now have to take the more formidable path if it wants to reach its ultimate goal.

The route won’t be trouble-free. The trek will not be easy-going. A lot of baseball will need to be played in the next week or so. Defeated, 6-5, by a close-fisted Grants Pass squad that was dazzling in the field and opportunistic on the mound, Cedar Mill now needs to wind its way through the double-elimination bracket and possibly beat the Cavemen again in order to stand atop the state pecking order at the Oregon Little League state baseball tournament.

Undoubtedly, it’ll be a daunting task, one filled with six days of nerve-fringing hardball. But, it’s one the 11-year and 12-year-old all-stars were already foraging for minutes after Grants Pass fended off a furious sixth-inning Cedar Mill comeback.

“This is a blip on the radar. No problem,” said Cedar Mill manager Kevin Meader. “We’ll come out and play the well the rest of the tournament, I’m sure of it. We’re going to play baseball for another week or until we lose. This won’t derail us. We’ll be back.”

“We can’t underestimate the opponent,” said shortstop Connor Kollas. “They’ve all won their district and they’re all pretty good. We just have to play hard and play our game.”

“All we have to do is come to the park woken up,” said Brandon Sorensen. “We just have to focus at the beginning and be loud and enthusiastic.”

by: TIMES PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - Cedar Mill second baseman Loggan Davis readies himself for a sharp grounder in the sixth inning against Grants Pass on Friday.

“We have to take it one game at a time,” added infielder Will Harrington.

Down to its final three outs, trailing 6-2 going into the bottom of the sixth, Cedar Mill refused to surrender. Hayden Skiba walked and left-handed hitter Danny Hext followed with a double.

Then, with James Porter at the plate, Skiba scored from third on a wild pitch and Hext advanced to third. Two pitches later with Porter still at the dish, Hext hummed home on another ball in the dirt to cut the lead to 6-4.

“We got our heads in the game,” said Harrington. “We started focusing a lot better and started getting the bat on the ball. We started getting on base, and that helped us score more runs.”

Standing tall in the batter’s box, Porter plastered a soaring solo shot to left that was dead the second the ball touched the aluminum to pull Cedar Mill within 6-5.

“I told the boys, ‘This is what the hammer is all about’,” said Kevin Meader. “You’re going to bat last, score four runs and tie this up. And, we almost did it. I knew the boys would battle, and I figured that someone was going to hit one out of here. We just started too late.”

With two outs on the board Gavin Meader kept the rally alive with a walk, and Loggan Davis smashed a single to left to move the tying-run into scoring position for Kollas — Cedar Mill’s leadoff man.

Salivating for something up and in from Grants Pass’ closer, Kollas clubbed a fastball down the first base line that seemed destined for extra bases, a tie ball-game and just maybe a first-round win.

However, Grants Pass’ first baseman made an excellent stab behind the bag, quickly moving to his left and snatched Kollas’ clobber with his mitt. Coolly and calmly, the infielder collected his feet and beat Kollas by half a step to first — one of many superb plays Grants Pass made on Friday afternoon to rob Cedar Mill of base hits — to end Cedar Mill’s resurgence. by: TIMES PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - Cedar Mill pitcher Ethan Wilson flips a ball to first for an out against Grants Pass on Friday.

“I was looking to hit it hard so we could get our two, three and four (hitters) up, but the first baseman made a great play,” said Kollas. “I was happy with my at-bat.”

“It was a tough battle,” added Sorensen. “They got a few hits. We had a few errors, but we made that comeback and they made that good play at the end, which they deserved. But, we can still come back and possibly win the tournament.”

Sorensen believed Cedar Mill could’ve strung together more hits but “just weren’t into it” at the beginning of the game. Toward the end of the game, the all-stars said the mood changed in the dugout as the sense of urgency began to set it.

“Our dugout was more loud, and we were more into it,” said Kollas. “We started taking pitches that were marginal and swinging at the good pitches, and ripped them.”

“Near the end of the game, we started focusing a lot more than we did at the beginning,” added Harrington. “I thought we did a lot better at that. At the very beginning of the game we weren’t totally pumped up.”

Cedar Mill took a 1-0 lead when Kaito Wilson scored on a wild pitch in the bottom of the second. by: TIMES PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - Cedar Mill rightfielder Danny Hext throws a ball back into the infield after an out in the fifth inning against Grants Pass on Friday.

Grants Pass evened the tally on a Cedar Mill misplay in the third, added four more runs in the fifth, three of which came on a three-run homer to left. Davis’ standup triple in the fifth and succeeding score on a wild pitch trimmed the deficit to 5-2.

“We weren’t quite with it early, but that’s baseball,” said Kevin Meader. “This team usually scores more than five runs, so (Grants Pass’) pitcher did a nice job. We gave them a couple runs, but you can’t count on playing a perfect game. So, you have to hit, but we’ll hit the rest of this tournament. That, I’m very confident about.”

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