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Plays at the plate go against Rangers


Molalla hangs on for a 3-2 win in Tri-Valley League action

The baseball gods frowned upon Estacada on Monday as the Rangers fell to rival Molalla, 3-2.

Three key plays that could have gone either way dramatically altered the game. Unfortunately for the Rangers, all three went Molalla’s way.

“That one hurts, no doubt about it,” Estacada coach Ryan Carpenter said. “They got the breaks in this one, but they earned those breaks.”

A pair of those crucial plays killed a potential rally in the bottom of the first inning. After Estacada’s James Smith walked, Brandon Beck smashed a deep fly to left field that rolled all the way to the wall. Smith was chugging into third base just as the ball was being thrown to the cutoff man, so he was waved in.

Smith slid into home and Molalla catcher Devon Schaefer caught the ball almost simultaneously. Estacada thought Smith avoided the tag, but the umpire saw things differently and called Smith out.

Two batters later, Estacada pitcher Casey Jones stepped in with two outs and two runners on. Jones went the other way by lifting a line drive to right-center field. Molalla center fielder Austin Alexander dove, snagged the ball and slid several feet on the damp grass to end the inning. Had the ball gotten by Alexander, both Estacada runners would have scored standing up.

In the fourth inning, the Rangers again found themselves on the short-end of a tight play.

The Indians had already scored one run and had the bases loaded with no outs, but Jones thought he got a major break when Molalla’s Christian Lushenko hit a hard groundball to Estacada first baseman Devin Foust, who stepped on first and fired home. Catcher Bryce Babikoff caught the ball and applied the tag to Molalla’s Alexander for an apparent double play. The call again went against the Rangers as the umpire called Alexander safe.

“Of course I was certain to question those calls at the plate, but they were good plays,” Carpenter said. “Quite frankly, we just have to step up when the breaks are there for us.”

Alexander’s run put the Indians up 2-0. They would add one more in the fifth inning. The Rangers scored one run in bottom of the fourth inning and another in the fifth, but no more.

The two plays at home and the diving catch by Alexander resulted in a four-run swing, which made a monumental difference in the one-run game.

While those three plays were huge, Estacada squandered several other opportunities. The Rangers had at least one runner on base in every inning and they pushed most of those runners into scoring position. Driving those runners in was a different story. Estacada went 0-for-9 with runners in scoring position and left 10 runners on base in the game.

“Offensively, when it mattered, we didn’t get it done,” Carpenter said. “We worked on that exact thing, situational hitting, in practice on Friday. I have faith that they will get that job done one of these days, but today wasn’t that day.”

Smith led Estacada by going 2-for-2 with two walks. Jones threw all seven innings for the Rangers, allowing five hits and three earned runs. He added two hits at the plate.