The Rangers beat La Salle 1-0 to become co-champs of the Tri-Valley Conference

by: CONTRIBUTED PHOTO: BRENLEY BABIKOFF - Estacada players dogpile on the mound after Fridays 1-0 win over LaSalle to claim a share of the Tri-Valley Conference crown. Everything was on the line for the Estacada baseball team on Friday. With a win over La Salle, the Rangers would earn a share of the Tri-Valley Conference championship and would cement the season as one of the best in school history.

Estacada exceeded expectations all year, and with the stakes at their highest, the Rangers defied the odds one more time.

Behind the left arm of ace Casey Jones, Estacada stunned first-place La Salle 1-0 to earn the title of “conference champion” for the first time since 1955.

“The kids played great,” Estacada coach Ryan Carpenter said. “I was very proud of our team’s composure and confidence during such a high-stakes game.”

Jones stifled the Falcon lineup and threw a two-hit shutout. The Rangers’ defense was pristine behind him which almost eliminated any chance La Salle had of threatening to score.

With Jones holding down La Salle’s offense, Estacada just had to get on the scoreboard itself. The bottom of the order took care of that as Chase Settle scored the game’s only run on a two-out single from sophomore Jordan McDaniel.

The adrenaline ran high for Estacada even after it took the lead, but the Rangers didn’t let the energy and emotion win out – at least not until the game was over. When the final out was finally recorded, the team dog-piled Jones near the pitcher’s mound in a wild celebration.

In addition to clinching a piece of the league title by prevailing over La Salle, the Rangers tied the school record for wins in a season with 14 (1976). The team also qualified for the playoffs for the first time since 1998.

“This is a monumental step for our baseball program, and baseball overall in Estacada. What makes me most excited about this is the true joy I am seeing in our kids. Our baseball community has worked tirelessly developing our youth league, improving facilities and building core fundamentals and values in our young baseball players. It is so great to see these rewards for all of the hard work invested by so many great people here in Estacada,” Carpenter said. “Most importantly, it is so exciting to see these young men accomplish their goals which were set at the beginning of the year. This is a remarkable group of guys who believe in each other. It has truly been a treat to watch them blossom before my very eyes.”

By knocking off the Falcons, Estacada forced a four-team tie for first place in the Tri-Valley Conference standings. The Rangers and Falcons, along with North Marion and Gladstone, finished the year with 10-5 records in league play.

The tiebreaker for playoff seeding came down to series wins between the tied teams. Estacada and North Marion each won two such series while La Salle and Gladstone won one each, so the Rangers and Huskies pulled ahead of the other two. North Marion won the season series over Estacada to secure the top seed, leaving the Rangers with the conference’s No. 2 seed.

Estacada will host Sweet Home – the No. 3 seed from the Sky-Em League – in a play-in qualifier on Thursday. Sweet Home went 14-9 during the regular season (9-6 Sky-Em League). The Rangers will again send Jones to the hill as they vie to punch their ticket into the 16-team state tournament bracket.

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