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Baseball seniors at Culver finish strong but can't create win


Sports Editor
   
   Nick Hagman and Chris Dix closed their baseball careers at Culver High with better individual than team results in a season-ending 13-6 loss to Horizon Christian on May 20.
   Culver's youth led to enough hesitation to stumble through some mistakes that were compounded by a couple of solid hits by Horizon Christian, especially in its six-run seventh.
   It had kept contending for most of the game, but Culver collapsed in the seventh.
   Hagman's two-run home run, with Dix on base, in the sixth inning helped cut Horizon Christian's three-run lead to 7-6, but the Bulldogs drew no closer. That blast cleared the fence midway between the left-field line and center field.
   First-year coach Shea Little said the Bulldogs battled a lack of experience for most the season but began coming on late in the year.
   Having beaten Wahtonka and Horizon Christian earlier in the year, the Bulldogs came into their final three games of the season, against Condon and Horizon Christian, still holding a chance to sneak into the Columbia Basin Conference playoffs. Losing three games to Sherman County left Culver needing to win two of three, at least, against each of the other three teams in its division, but it fell short.
   When Condon beat Culver twice, 10-3 and 4-3, one week before the Bulldogs ended their season with the home date against Horizon Christian, all Culver could play for was pride.
   Hagman showed his pride. He kept working hard on the mound despite some mistakes behind him and waited for the right pitch to put a powerful, smooth swing on.
   In the early part of the May 20 game Hagman alternated with his control. He had trouble finding it early as he walked the game's first two batters then gave up a grounder into center that scored two runs due to the runners having advanced to second and third when pitches got away from the catcher. Hagman came back to strike out a Horizon Christian batter for the first out then coereced a fly out off another Horizon Christian batter before an error and walk plus a throwing error left runners in scoring position again. A second hit, blooped to right, scored both to leave Culver in a 4-0 hole.
   But Dix doubled in Kyle Blood, who had led off the bottom of the first by reaching on an by the first baseman trying to pick out a low throw. Culver thus trimmed the lead to 4-1.
   Two innings later, with Hagman back in rhythm and having collected four strikeouts between his work in the second and third, Culver's offense came more fully to life.
   Following a fly out to lead off the third, the top of the lineup, in Blood, came to bat again for Culver. Igniting what proved a three-run rally, Blood singled between the center fielder and right fielder to bring up Adam Kinley, who legged out a grounder when the first baseman bobbled it.
   Dix then added a triple into the right field corner to pick up two more RBIs and get in position to cross the plate on a wild pitch by the Horizon pitcher.
   That poor throw was one of Horizon's only mistakes. It did not cost them, however. Hagman couldn't stay in the tie for long.
   A fifth-inning rally put Horizon ahead for good. It used a misplayed sacrifice which turned into two runs in the sixth to cap its scoring. Culver went down in order in its part of the fifth and sixth innings.
   Hagman had his string of pitching mastery stopped in the seventh inning by Horizon Christian as it dinked in a hit that was neary caught at second but instead started the six-run scoring avalanche. A solid double drove in the first run of the frame against Hagman but the senior nearly got out of trouble with just a couple runs scoring until a passed ball helped make a soon-to-follow looped line drive by Shane Swick which scored two runs look line a belted ball in the scorebook.
   Horizon Christian had command of the Bulldogs' final game this season.
   Little said he would be trying to gather information to steer some of his players to summer teams, if they are available. Keeping tuned up during the summer will pay dividends for the Bulldog baseball program next spring coach Littler noted.
   Culver might hold informal practices among the players to help stay limber or even play some fall baseball too. The last event of this season will be on Thursday, May 29, at 7 p.m. in the multi-purpose room at the high school.
   That is when Little is holding a gathering of spring sports teams to honor the softball, baseball and track and field athletes.