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Baseball playoffs: Indians upset by La Grande in first round

Tigers come from a 3-1 deficit to beat Scappoose 4-3 and head to the quarterfinals of the OSAA Class 4A postseason


by: JOHN WILLIAM HOWARD - Junior shortstop Justin Hering takes a crack at a pitch midway through the Indians' first round playoff game against La Grande on Thursday afternoon. Scappoose held a 3-1 lead in the second inning, but the Tigers stormed back to take the game 4-3 and move on in the postseason.With the bases loaded in the bottom of the fourth inning, the pressure was on for Scappoose senior Hunter Hoyt. The Indians held a narrow 3-2 lead on La Grande in the first round game of the OSAA playoffs, and after driving home three runs in the bottom of the second, had been scoreless ever since.

Hoyt struck out the first, then froze senior Brandon Cederholm with three strikes down the middle, nullifying the threat.

But despite a pitching gem from Hoyt, that would be the only time he'd beat Cederholm, who scored late in the top of the seventh to put the Tigers on top, completing the rally and punching La Grande's upset ticket to the Class 4A quarterfinals.

The upset, which saw a 12-seed advance past the fifth-ranked Indians, left the Tribesmen silent and a little shaken.

“[The huddle was] somber. I told them I was proud of them and to keep their heads up,” said Head Coach Robert Medley. “Told them I loved 'em. Got to look at the positives: 20 wins, Cowapa League champs. You've got to take the positives away from the game of baseball every time, because there are going to be negatives. Even in wins, there's negatives.”

The negatives, four costly errors, ended up making the difference. The Tigers set up their first score early on in the top of the first when Hoyt rushed to his right to grab a grounder between third base and the mound. He turned and hurled the ball toward first base, but missed high and allowed Cederholm to run all the way to third base.

The Hoyt then struck out Jake Chamberlain, but a grounder from senior Trenton Powers skipped past the glove of short stop Justin Hering, allowing Cederholm an open run to home.

The Indians responded to bang out three runs shortly thereafter. Sam Margheim stole home, and Hoyt batted Hering home to give Scappoose a 2-1 lead. A few minutes later, Jake Ford leapt on a passed ball before La Grande finally close the innings, reeling from a three-run barrage.

But the Tigers didn't give up. They chipped one away in the top of the fourth before Hoyt shut down a set of loaded bases, and tied the game in the top of the sixth when Drew Hively scored on a steal of home.

Even then, with their backs now against the wall, the Indians didn't quail.

“This team is resilient,” said Medley. “It's how we coach and it's how we play. I've been here a long time, and we always coach kids to be resilient and play defense and pitch, and we pitched our butt off today.”

With two outs already in the top of the seventh, Scappoose decided to go with a little gamesmanship. Cederholm stood on first after a single to center field, and with two outs, the Indians were looking to force La Grande into something easy. Junior Jared Rogers was intentionally walked, putting a runner on first and second and taking away the option of a bunt down the third-base line.

Now, Hively would either strike out and close the inning, or go for gold.

And gold it was. Hively connected on the third pitch, sending it deep to center field as Cederholm rushed in for his second go-ahead run of the game.

Scappoose had their chances in the bottom of the seventh. Margheim singled to left field with two outs, and with the game on the line, Hering sent a high fly ball out to center field, but into the waiting glove of Eli Wisdom.

“That's the way it goes,” said Medley. “We had plenty of opportunities, plenty of guys on base, but we could not get a ball to fall. The last bat of the game, Justin Hering puts a great swing on a pitch. If that ball gets in the gap, Sam [Margheim] scores from first. Kid runs like a gazelle, but that guy catches it. It's baseball.”

The season, though it ended in a disappointing loss at home, was a remarkable turnaround from a group that struggled to string victories together just a year ago. Medley said the seniors – Hoyt, Margeim, Wade Nelson, Kyler Mizee Anthony Bernal and Will Sprute – poured themselves into the program and have plenty to show for it: finishing the season at 20-7, and bringing home the Indians' second league title in three years.

It's all the more impressive, given that the Indians' number top gun from the mound – Sprute – didn't pitch the final third of the season.

“He doesn't pitch the last five games that we win, and he didn't pitch today,” said Medley. “Hopefully he gets better, because him and Hunter [Hoyt] are both going to be playing in the all-star series in a couple weeks, so hopefully he's better enough to play down there.”

With Sprute on the bench, the duties fell to Hoyt. Through seven innings, Hoyt gave up just six hits and struck out nine batters – one more than the Tiger duo combined. Only once did Hoyt give up a hit with a runner in scoring position, capping a performance in which he rarely responded negatively to pressure.

“It just shows that him as an athlete – you see it in wrestling, you see it wherever he plays – nothing rattles him” said Medley. “He understands what the next pitch is and the next move in wrestling. Things don't get him down … That's what you want in a pitcher. You get in those situations, and some pitchers will look around and go “good Lord, I've got the bases juiced.” [Hoyt] and all of our pitchers have done a pretty good job in that.”

Hoyt was selected as the Cowapa League player of the year. Ford, Sprute, Patton, Mizee and Robby Backus were named to the all-league team. Bernal and Margheim were given an honorable mention.

SUMMARY

La Grande 4, Scappoose 3

Scappoose High School

LAGR 100 101 1 – 4 6 2

SCAP 03 0 000 0 – 3 9 4

Scappoose

Hits (9): Ford, Hoyt 2, Backus, Bernal, Parsons, Margheim 2, Hering

RBI (1): Hoyt

Runs (3): Ford, Margheim, Hering

LP: Hoyt (7 IP, six hits, three walks, nine strikeouts)

La Grande

Hits (6): Cederholm, Rogers, Hively, Childs 3

RBIs (2): Hively, Childs

Runs (4): Cederholm 2, Rogers, Hively

WP: Stremcha (3 IP, three hits, one walk, five strikeouts)