La Salle Prep diamondmen sink Pirates, advance to quarterfinals

MEDFORD - The unheralded La Salle Prep Falcons overcame adversity to trip ninth-ranked Skyline champion Phoenix 5-3 in a May 25 first-round game of the 16-team Class 4A state high school baseball playoffs.

The win advanced the Falcons to the quarterfinals for only the third time in the past 12 seasons.

At press time on May 27, the 12th-ranked Falcons (18-8) were scheduled to meet second-ranked Newport (18-3) in the quarterfinals. With a win in that game they'd advance to the semifinals for the first time since 1986. That year they dropped an extra-inning heartbreaker to Newport in the semis.

'I'm just really proud of the kids,' said La Salle coach Chris George. 'It's a different kid stepping up every night….'

Adversity struck early on gameday of last week's playoff game with Phoenix.

'The game was on turf and we discovered last minute that they didn't allow cleats on the field,' said George. 'So we had to do some quick shopping [in Medford] for seven pairs of turf shoes.'

Nerves came into play in the early innings of the Phoenix game. The Falcons committed three early errors and they staked the host Pirates to a 3-0 lead.

The Pirates scored all three runs in a third inning that included a half-hour lightning delay, scoring on a walk, a sacrifice, an error and two doubles.

La Salle answered with three runs in the top of the fourth. Spencer Savage walked, Vince Matteson beat out an infield single and Cody Farnes singled Savage home.

Matteson scored on a passed ball, and Kyle Studdard followed with a two-out single to bring Farnes around.

The Pirates battled back and moved on top 4-3 with a single tally in the bottom of the fourth.

After La Salle starting pitcher Parker Portash gave up a one-out double, coach George brought in sophomore reliever Lucas Ehli.

After issuing a walk, Ehli got Kameron Kaufman (3-for-4), who had crushed a run-scoring double in the inning before, to pop up to shortstop Aaron Bredl.

Ehli then sent Phoenix clean-up hitter Kyle Treadway, who had hit a two-run double in the third inning, down swinging, to retire the side.

With the momentum turning La Salle's way, Savage brought the winning run across in the top of the fifth. Portash singled and stole second, and Savage doubled him home with a well-hit ball down the left-field line.

Phoenix threatened in the sixth, advancing runners to first and third with one down. But Ehli got the next two batters to ground back to Savage at third, and Savage made the plays at first to retire the side.

La Salle added an insurance tally in the seventh, scoring on a walk by Portash, a base hit by Savage and a run-scoring double by Matteson.

Ehli then retired the side in order in the last of the seventh, ending the game on a called third strike.

'The kids are to be congratulated for the way they played baseball together,' said George. 'After some adversity and three errors in the first three innings, they played great defense. They put the ball in play and made Phoenix make plays....

'The kids are having a lot of fun, and so am I. I couldn't be prouder.'

Led by Savage (2-for-2), Matteson (2-for-4) and Farnes (2-for-4), the Falcons pounded out 10 hits.

Ehli (3 strikeouts, 3 walks) held the Pirates to just two hits in 3-2/3 innings of relief.

And the Falcons played error-free defense from the fourth inning on.

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