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Braves nailed at home


Banks misses out on a regular-season Cowapa League baseball title with a 9-1 home loss against Tillamook

Last Friday’s game is one the Banks baseball team probably would like to have back.

In a regular-season finale filled with postseason implications, the Braves spotted visiting Tillamook a five-run lead in the first inning and could never build enough offensive momentum to overcome the slow start in a 9-1 loss.by: NEWS-TIMES PHOTO: CHASE ALLGOOD - Banks senior Eric Sommerfeld reacts to teammate Shane Spiering being called out on a close play at home plate during the Braves' 9-1 Cowapa League loss to Tillamook last Friday.

“This win would have been great to go into the playoffs with,” Banks junior infielder Mykah Rosa said. “Now all our sight’s on our next game, because we were in the playoffs regardless.”

With a victory, Banks would have tied Astoria for first place in the Cowapa League and taken the league’s top playoff spot, which comes with an automatic state playoff berth. Instead, the Braves had to settle for a second-place tie with Tillamook and a Class 4A play-in game this Thursday at Hidden Valley.

“After this game, we talked about it. We talked about our main goal going into the year was getting to the third season, which is the postseason, and we’re doing that,” Banks coach Brian Ackerman said. “It would have been nice to win league. Obviously, it would have been.

“We were there. We gave ourselves a chance to win league with this game, and we just didn’t do it. (Tillamook) played a better baseball game than we did today.”

Against the Cheesemakers, Banks pulled back a run in the bottom of the first on a single by Joey Bonin that drove in Graysen Partain, who had walked three at-bats earlier.

Though the Braves came close, they did not score again. In one of their best opportunities, in the bottom of the fourth with the score still 5-1, Shane Spiering was called out in a close play at home plate, and the out got Tillamook out of the inning.

The Braves also left six runners on base during the game, and Partain hit three balls well into the outfield off of Tillamook pitcher Matt Strang, but none of them were quite deep enough to go over the fence or elude Cheesemakers outfielders.

Still, after going 3-7 to start the season, to come within a game of the league title and earn a play-in berth is an accomplishment of note for the Braves. After the challenging start, Banks rebounded to win seven of its next eight games, eventually finishing the regular season at 13-11 overall and 10-5 in league play to earn a postseason berth.

“We learned from our preseason. We got beat up a little bit in preseason,” Ackerman said. “We took all the information — what we were doing wrong, what we needed to work on — and we fixed it for league.

“And now we’re on to the next season, and we’re going to take all this information that we got in the league, and we’re going to fix it and play better. We can still play better. We made the postseason not playing our best baseball.”

A victory in Thursday’s game in Grants Pass against Hidden Valley (16-7), runners-up in the Skyline Conference, would move the Braves on to the OSAA’s 16-team Class 4A playoff bracket. The first round is scheduled for May 22.

In Class 6A, Forest Grove also earned a postseason play-in game for the chance to advance to the classification’s 32-team bracket. After going 9-16 overall and 5-12 in the Pacific Conference, tying for seventh, the Vikings drew Class 6A defending champion Oregon City (14-12) for the play-in round.

Results of Forest Grove’s Tuesday contest against the Pioneers were not available (after press deadline).

As for Gaston, the Greyhounds will have to play their way into the Class 2A/1A postseason. Gaston went 13-11 overall and 11-7 in Northwest League play, finishing in third place behind Knappa and Portland Christian. The league tournament is slated for this week at Chuck Bafaro Stadium in Forest Grove.

Gaston opens the tournament at 3 p.m. on Thursday against fourth-place Nestucca (8-15), and the winner of that game will turn around and face second-place Portland Christian (18-8) for the league’s second and final state playoff berth.