Century stuns the ninth-ranked Rams in the first round of the state playoffs

On paper, ninth-ranked Central Catholic was a heavy favorite against No. 24 Century on Monday in the first round of the Class 6A baseball state playoffs.

But for the scrappy Jaguars, the only numbers that matter are the ones on the HILLSBORO TRIBUNE PHOTO: CHASE ALLGOOD - Century third baseman Jaylen Martes tries to field a throw on a stolen base attempt during Monday's playoff game against Central Catholic.

Six days after slipping past McKay 6-5 with a walk-off hit in a state play-in game to earn its playoff berth, Century won another nailbiter — this one 5-4 against Central Catholic — to continue the team’s unlikely postseason march.

“We don’t really pay much attention to the power rankings,” Century coach Kyle Bunting said. “We know the OSAA has them for their own reasons, but that doesn’t matter to us. In baseball, if you throw strikes, play good defense and hit the ball, you’ve got a chance to win no matter who you’re playing. It just comes down to who makes fewer mistakes.”

Century (15-13) made very few mistakes on Monday against Central Catholic, and the Jaguars used their experience in close games this season to prevail in their second straight one-run contest.

“We played really well,” Bunting said. “We’ve had a lot of close games this year, and I think that helped us.”

Freshman Kolby Somers got the start on the mound and pitched five strong innings, surrendering three earned runs and keeping Century in contention.

Central Catholic (18-9) took a 3-2 lead into the fourth inning, but Century surged ahead with a three-run rally.

Cody Chimienti reached on an error, Marcos Hernandez was hit by a pitch, and Kyle Lennen legged out an infield single on what was supposed to be a sacrifice bunt, loading the bases with nobody out. Daniel Moore followed with an RBI single to right-center field that tied the game, and Josh Sundquist delivered the big blow two batters later with a two-run single that gave the Jaguars a 5-3 lead.

Central Catholic pulled back a run in the bottom of the fifth, and the Rams chased Somers from the game by putting their leadoff hitter on base in the bottom of the sixth.

Century senior Nick LoBue came on in relief of Somers and got an instant boost from Hernandez. The senior catcher made an on-target throw to nail the Central Catholic runner trying to steal second base, and LoBue did the rest, getting two more outs in the sixth and setting the Rams down in order in the seventh to preserve the victory and earn a save.

“These kids are used to close games,” Bunting said. “They’re feeling confident right now. They’re not really a roller coaster team with a lot of ups and downs. They’re pretty even all the time and I think that helps in a playoff setting.”

Monday’s win earned the Jaguars a date with defending state champion Sheldon (20-8) in the second round of the playoffs on Wednesday. Results of that contest were not available at press deadline. Check for updated scores and playoff brackets.

Regardless of the situation or opponent, Bunting said he is confident that his team will maintain the right mindset for playoff baseball.

“We know if we want to make a good run in the state playoffs, we’ve got to beat good teams in every round,” he said. “Sheldon is the defending state champion and they’ve got a really good team. We’re going to go down there and hope to play our baseball and see how it goes.”

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