Madras fends off Baker in opening round

by: Photo By Baker City Herald and Photographer Kathy Orr  - Madras pitcher Kyle Palmer, left on ground,  tags out Baker runner Darren Dolby, right,  in the bottom of the seventh inning May 23 during a the opening round of the OSAA Class 4A state baseball playoffs.

The magical run has ended for the Madras High School baseball team.
   The White Buffalos, who pulled off two intense victories for an opportunity to play in the OSAA Class 4A state quarterfinals, ran into a superior team last Friday.
   The No. 1-ranked Ontario Tigers put an end to Madras with a 12-2 victory, countering two runs by the White Buffalos in the first inning with six of their own in the frame and the Tigers never looked back.
   "We thought we were in business after we scored two runs, but those guys can hit and are the real deal," MHS head coach Adam Randall said. "They threw two pitchers and each threw hard, college-level breaking balls, and we struggled against them."
   The White Buffalos, who won at Baker City 4-3 two days prior in the opening round, traveled over 1,100 miles in three days.
   "We had the toughest draw in the bracket," Randall said. "We were never favored, but for this team to be a part of the final eight was a very successful season."
   With Madras ace Kyle Palmer unable to throw due to earning a complete-game victory at Baker May 23, Ontario (19-7 overall) took advantage of Andrew and Bob Fine, scoring 12 runs on 10 hits, although the White Buffalos didn't help their up-and-coming pitchers.
   "Only six of those runs were earned," Randall said. "We made three errors at the wrong time. They hit the ball really hard and we just didn't field it cleanly a few times."
   The Tigers, who faced North Valley in the semifinals after press deadline Tuesday, added five runs in the third inning and tacked on another run in the fifth inning.
   "What makes me excited is that even though we lost, our younger guys were already talking about summer ball and next season," Randall said. "These kids want to keep this going and were upbeat on the trip home."
   Palmer finished with two hits, including an RBI single in the first inning. The left-handed throwing Palmer will be lost to graduation, along with Andrew McConnell, Jordan Brown and Chris Lay.
   "This is the longest tenure that I've had with one program and I've watched these seniors grow as human beings, and they've all come a long ways," Randall said. "They've been an important part of what we've accomplished and they will be missed."
   The White Buffalos finished 15-10 overall and finished second in Tri-Valley Conference play at 10-5.
   Madras 4, Baker 3
   The Madras High School baseball program is selling playoff T-Shirts that read "Survive and Advance."
   That's exactly what the White Buffalos did Wednesday in the opening round of the OSAA Class 4A state baseball playoffs, thanks mainly, to consecutive dominant pitching efforts by senior Kyle Palmer.
   The left-hander, who struck out 13 batters in all, worked out of a bases loaded jam in the seventh inning with two straight strikeouts to end the game at Baker High School to lead Madras to a 4-3 victory.
   "That was one of the most stressful seventh innings I've ever been a part of, but Kyle gave us maximum effort and we survived," MHS head coach Adam Randall said.
   The win advanced Madras to last Friday's quarterfinals where the White Buffalos lost at at No. 1-ranked Ontario.
   "This is why we practice all year, to have an opportunity like this, and we're excited," Randall said.
   Trailing 4-2 entering the bottom half of the seventh frame, Baker took advantage of three walks and a mental fielding error to make the score 4-3, before MHS catcher Jordan Brown chased down a wild pitch to book an out at home plate with a toss to Palmer. "That play by Jordan was one of the best defensive plays I have ever seen," Randall said. "It saved the game."
   Palmer took control from there by striking out a pair of Bulldogs around an intentional walk to end the game.
   "I can't say enough about the effort Kyle gave us on the mound," Randall said of his ace that's recorded 25 strikeouts over his past two games. "We walked their No. 8 and No. 9 guys to start the seventh inning, but Kyle dug deep to get us out of there with a win."
   Palmer tossed all seven innings, walked eight and scattered four hits.
   "Kyle has pitched injured for us all year, and at times (May 23) he missed spots, but he pitched fantastic," Randall said.
   Madras second baseman Andrew Fine had a career day at the dish for the White Buffalos. The junior went three for four with four RBIs, including an RBI single in the first inning to score Brown and a two-run single in the fifth frame to score Bob Fine and Brown.
   "I was so happy for Andrew because he was feeling down after striking out against Yamhill-Carlton with the game on the line, but Andrew came through for us in a big way," said Randall of Andrew Fine, who struck out with one out in the bottom of the eighth inning against Yamhill-Carlton with the bases loaded during last week's Class 4A play-in round.
   Fine also picked up what turned out to be the game-winning RBI in the top of the seventh inning with a single that scored Broc Sanders.
   "Andrew was clutch at the plate and erased a bad memory," Randall said.
   Brown finished three for three at the plate and scored two runs, but it was his defensive plays that perhaps saved the game for Madras.
   "I think Jordan had 15-16 blocks and it was the best game Jordan has ever played behind the plate," Randall said. "I think he realized that could have been his last game, and he blocked some very tough breaking balls by Palmer to save runs."
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