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by: PHOTO BY JIM BESEDA/MOLALLA PIONEER - Colton's Drexler Hall tossed three shutout innings and was trying to protect a one-run lead in the seventh inning of last week's West Valley League home game against Sheridan when it started to rain -- hard -- and everything changed.During every baseball season, some rain is bound to fall, especially in Oregon.

High school teams have to cope with it, even to the point of trying to play through it -- and having it affect such things as a pitcher's ability to grip the ball.

In last week’s Colton-Sheridan game at Colton High School, torrential rain fell in the seventh inning, but the teams played on.

Colton took a 4-3 lead into the inning. The visiting Spartans then sent 18 batters to the plate — yes, 18 — and scored 12 runs on five hits, five walks, one hit batter, and six Vikings’ errors en route to their first West Valley League win this season.

Final score: Sheridan 15, Colton 8.

Rain forced a brief delay in the first inning when Colton scored four runs and jumped to an early 4-0 lead. Then the sun peeked out and it looked as if the teams might be able to finish the game before the next wave of showers hit.

Sheridan picked up a run in the second and two more in the third against Colton starter Cameron Stansfield, who turned the ball over to senior right-hander Dexter Hall to start the fourth.

Hall was dominant over his first three innings of relief, retiring nine of the first 10 batters he faced. The one batter to reach base got aboard on an error to open the sixth inning and ended up at third with none out, but Hall wiggled out of that jam by getting the next three batters on a strikeout, a bouncer back to the mound, and another strikeout.

“I felt like I was pitching good,” Hall said. “I had my curve down, I had my fastball down, and it all felt good as long as I was getting dry baseballs.”

In the seventh, the rain returned with a vengeance. It was a struggle to keep any of the baseballs from getting soaked, and the wetter the balls got, the harder is was for Hall to pitch effectively.

Sheridan used a lead-off single, an error, a bunt single and another error to produce the tying run. A bases-loaded walk pushed home the go-ahead run and things essentially deteriorated for Hall and the Vikings from there.

“All I could throw was curves,” Hall said. “That’s the only pitch I could get a grip on. My fastball, I couldn’t get it down, because I couldn’t get a grip on the ball. It was just slipping out of my hand.

“We shouldn’t have been playing.”

Scoreboard operator Jeff Armas thought the game should have been stopped, too. He started in on the umpires even before the first Sheridan baserunner moved into scoring position.

“You’re going to get somebody hurt, Blue!” hollered Armas, whose son, Toby, is the Vikings’ right fielder and clean-up hitter.

When the 10th Sheridan batter of the inning came to the plate, the game again was delayed because the rain was literally coming down sideways and blowing directly into the face of the batters.

At that point, the Spartans led 9-4. It also was after 7 p.m. and getting dark at a field without any lights.

If the umpires had stopped the game then, the score would have reverted to the sixth inning, Colton would have been awarded the win, and the Spartans would have been furious. Instead, once the wind died down a bit and after a delay of no more than 10 minutes, the decision was made to press on in the rain.

The only thing that was as constant as the rain was Armas, who rarely let a pitch go by without repeating the same seven-word refrain..

“You’re going to get somebody hurt, Blue!” Armas bellowed, this time as a pitch from Sheridan reliever Jakcson Meyer skipped under the catcher’s glove and caught a piece of home plate umpire Wayne Wilson’s left hand.

“Somebody just did!” quipped Wilson, looking over his shoulder at the grandstand and acknowledging the scoreboard operator for the first time.

When all was said and done, Sheridan had snapped an eight-game losing streak, while the Vikings fell to the Spartans for the first time in three seasons under coach Gary Parks.

Parks refused to use the rain as an excuse.

“We practice in this every day,” Parks said. “We don’t go in the gym. If we go in the gym, we’re going in there to goof around and play some Wiffle ball and have a good time and relax. But we’re out here every day, rain or shine, so these conditions shouldn’t affect these guys at all.”

Was Parks surprised the umpires decided to keep playing in the seventh?

“No, I wasn’t,” Parks said. “I was hoping they would when we had that downpour in the sixth when it would have been our game, but they want to get it in just as much as we do.

“It’s Oregon baseball and this is what we have to play in, so that’s why I’m not too worried about it.”

Parks was more concerned with the Vikings’ lack of hits with runners in scoring position and an inability to execute defensively in a few key situations.

“Once again, we score, and then our bats dried up,” Parks said. “That’s been our Achilles’ heel all year. We’ve lost too many games like this, but Sheridan did the things they had to do, and we didn’t, so hats off to them.”

Colton 6, Willamina 4: Daniel Stoddard scored the go-ahead run in a double-steal situation and Toby Armas added an RBI double during a three-run seventh inning that carried the Vikings past the Bulldogs.

Colton’s Hayden Vest pitched the first four innings, allowing four runs on three hits and five walks. Hall worked the final three innings, blanking Willamina on one hit with two walks and two hit batters as the Vikings completed their sweep of the two-game season series.

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