Bulldogs watch lead and state tourney slip away
By GERRY STEELE
Of the Baker City Herald
Its a simple fact: To win an athletic event you have to play better than your opponent. You have to do the fundamental things right, and take advantage of the breaks given to you.
Central did just that Tuesday, did the fundamental things it needed to do, and took advantage of five Baker errors to advance to the second round of the OSAA/U.S. Bank Class 3A state baseball playoffs.
The Panthers bunched four runs into the fourth inning, and added five more in the seventh to hand Baker a 10-6 defeat at the Baker Sports Complex.
Baker committed three errors in the fourth inning, and gave up five hits in the seventh.
We obviously didnt play our best ball today, said Baker coach Alan McCauley.
You get to this stage of the game and you give up runs on errors, the other teams going to win.
And, I tip my hat to Central, they swung the bats well against us.
Baker entered the game on a six-game winning streak, Central on a five-game tear.
The Panthers, from the Independence-Monmouth area, drew first blood in the top of the first.
With two outs Josh Brandt doubled to left. He came around to score when Dylan Herbert lofted a fly ball to shallow left. Baker left fielder Justin Merritt charged in, and shortstop Steve Valentine charged out. Merritt got a glove on the ball, but dropped it while trying to avoid running into Valentine.
Baker answered in the bottom of the inning, scoring two runs. Valentine and Brian Baker both reached base on errors, then scampered home on a triple to the right-center field fence by losing pitcher Luke Palmer.
Baker increased its lead to 4-1 in the second. Wes Cooke singled and was sacrificed to second by Dan Justus. Cooke went to third as Valentine grounded out, then scored on a single to right by Merritt.
With two outs, Brian Baker lofted a towering pop up just behind third base where three Panthers converged on the ball. Two players appeared to lose the ball in the sun, and the third appeared to think one of his teammates would make the catch.
None did. The ball landed between all three. Meanwhile, Merritt, off with the crack of the bat, scored all the way from first.
Central rallied for four runs in the fourth, all unearned.
Dylan Herbert doubled and went to third on a wild pitch. After an infield out, Cody Crockett grounded out to Baker, allowing Herbert to score.
Then, after Chris Barker singled, the Bulldogs committed two straight errors to load the bases. David Navarrete singled to score one run. Another scored on another wild pitch, and the last on another error.
Baker took its last lead, 6-5, in the bottom of the fifth.
Baker and Palmer hit back-to-back singles. Baker, who had advanced on a wild pitch with Palmer at the plate, then attempted to score on Palmers hit. But a perfect relay from Herbert to Arnold Garcia to Drew Herbert at the plate cut Baker down.
With two outs, Chris Price laced a single, and Palmer, who had gone to second on the play at the plate, tried to score. This time, Palmer slid under Herberts tag for the run.
Logan Mitchell pinch ran for Price and advanced to third on a wild pitch. He scored when Central shortstop Jordan Pratt fell down fielding Pat Taylors grounder up the middle.
Central got two runners on in the sixth, and McCauley went to the mound to talk to his ace right-hander.
I just wanted to calm him down. He was rushing himself a little, McCauley said, adding that he never thought of bringing in a relief pitcher.
Luke was having a little trouble hitting his spots today, McCauley said.
Palmer worked his way out of the sixth without giving up the tying run. But he wasnt as fortunate in the seventh.
Garcia singled, and Brandt walked to open the inning. Dylan Herbert hit into a fielders choice for the first out, but Pratt then tripled to center to drive in two runs. Crockett followed with a single to score Pratt.
Crockett moved up on a sacrifice bunt by Barker. Drew Herbert followed with a single. Both Crockett and Herbert scored on another single by Zach Halligan.
Baker didnt threaten in the bottom of the seventh. Greg Goodenough singled but was erased on a fielders choice grounder by Price. Taylor then grounded into a pitcher-to-second-to-first double play to end the game.
Navarrete earned the win in relief of Noah Padilla.
Palmer suffered his first loss in nine decisions. He struck out seven and walked one.
The game was the final one in a Baker uniform for seniors Palmer, Taylor and Valentine.
Our seniors have made an outstanding contribution to the baseball program, McCauley said.
Steve and Luke have played for me every summer and during the regular season. Pat has had other commitments during the summer, but has played as often as he could, and during the high school season.
They all have given what they could. They have been good models for the younger kids, McCauley said.
Central travels to The Dalles for a second round game Friday.
Baker finished its season 19-8.
Central 1 0 0 4 0 0 5 10
Baker 2 2 0 0 2 0 0 6
Padilla, Navarrete (6) and Dr. Herbert. Palmer and Goodenough. WP Navarrete. LP Palmer (8-1).
Central hits Brandt, Dy. Herbert, Dr. Herbert 2, Crockett, Barker 2, Navarrete, Halligan 2, Garcia, Pratt. Baker hits Palmer 2, Cooke 2, Merritt, Baker 2, Price, Justus, Goodenough.
Central RBI Dy. Herbert, Crockett 2, Navarrete, Halligan 2, Pratt 2. Baker RBI Palmer 2, Merritt, Baker, Price, Taylor.
2B Brandt, Dy. Herbert, Halligan, Baker. 3B Pratt, Palmer.