Viks beat Centennial by stranding the game-tying run in the bottom of the seventh

With the Pacific Conference baseball season beginning this week, Forest Grove dodged some sketchy spring break weather and shored up its

early-season credentials with a gritty 10-9 non-league win over Centennial last Wednesday.

In a topsy turvy game, Forest Grove (3-1) jumped out to a 4-0 lead through two innings, then gave it away by allowing two runs in the third and three in the fourth.

The Vikings took the lead back for good with a four-run rally in the top of the fifth, sparked by Jake Bennett's RBI double to right-center field. Steven Izquerdo drove in a run with an RBI groundout and Dylan Hansen made it 8-5 with a clutch two-out, two-run single to right field.

Forest Grove added two insurance runs in the top of the sixth, and they would prove to be critical.

After two walks and an error loaded the bases for the Vikings, Izquerdo singled back up the middle to plate a pair of runs and give Forest Grove a 10-5 lead.

'We hit the ball pretty well with runners in scoring position,' Forest Grove head coach Kevin Tucker said. 'We just need to keep doing a good job of driving runs in when we've got guys on base.'

Centennial (2-5) rallied for three runs off three different Forest Grove pitchers in the sixth inning, then scored again in the seventh to make it a one-run game.

Bennett ran into trouble after walking a pair of hitters to start the sixth inning, and Izquerdo lasted just 1/3 of an inning in relief after surrendering a sacrifice fly and walking the bases loaded. The Eagles scored two unearned runs on a Forest Grove error to cut it to 10-8, but Austyn Zamora pitched out of the jam. The junior gave up a run in the bottom of the seventh, but stranded the tying run on first base to preserve the early-season victory.

'It was a good contest right to the end,' Tucker said. 'Our pitchers need to do a better job of throwing strikes. We're walking too many guys, and we just gave them too many opportunities.'

Izquerdo went 2-for-4 with four RBIs, including a run-scoring double in the first inning, and Kyle Vanderkin belted a two-run home run in the second. Bennett was 2-for-3 with a double and an RBI.

Forest Grove is scheduled to begin Pacific Conference play this week with games against Tualatin and Glencoe. The league changed its 21-game schedule from last year to an 18-game format this season, with the conference split into two divisions. Forest Grove will play McMinnville, Hillsboro and Tigard three times apiece, while playing the other conference teams twice.

'We decided to do it this way after everybody got in so few non-league games last year,' Tucker explained.

Forest Grove played only one non-league game last March before beginning conference play, and the Vikings' bats suffered as a result. Despite the weather this year, the Vikings were able to play four non-league games, which has Tucker encouraged.

'The weather hasn't been great, but we're better off than we were at this point last year,' he said.

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