By GERRY STEELE
Like the Ever Ready battery bunny, Baker and Crook County just kept going and going Friday.
Baker trailed most of the game before rallying late and going on to post a 9-8 10-inning win in the Class 4A baseball playin game at the Baker Sports Complex.
The win, coupled with Stayton's win over La Grande, means the Bulldogs (11-13) will host Madras Wednesday in the opening round of the Class 4A state playoffs. Game time has not yet been set.
"Resilient. That's what these guys are," said a smiling Dan Blankenship, Baker's coach while accepting congratulations from family and friends.
"We had clutch hit after clutch hit. We kept knocking on the door, but Crook County just wouldn't let us in for most of the game.
"What a game. Our 2-3-4 hitters were on fire," Blankenship said.
That trio - Mason Cline, Dillon Blankenship and Colten Richards - finished with seven hits, including two doubles and triple and a home run, and drove in six runs.
In fact, Richards was one of the biggest contributors.
With the Bulldogs trailing 7-5 in the bottom of the seventh inning. Blankenship singled and Colten then sliced a two-run home run to right field to tie the game and send it to extra frames.
Then, in the bottom of the 10th with two runners on, Richards lined a hit to left that the left-fielder lost in the bright sun for the game-winning hit.
Richards said he wasn't trying to do anything special in either plate appearnce.
"I was just looking for a fast ball, something up in the zone. Something I could drive," he said.
"I wanted to stay away from the off-speed stuff."
Richards, a right-handed hitter, drew a big smile when asked about hitting his homer to right field.
"I've been a pull hitter my whole life," he said. "Then I go and hit it to right."
Baker fell behind 3-0 in the top of the first inning, but got one run back in the bottom of the frame.
In the Baker first, Cline was hit by a pitch with one out. Blankenship followed with a single. Both runners appeared to score on a double to center by Richards. But, the ball went under the fence for a ground-rule double and Blankenhip had to return to third base.
Crook County (10-14) then built its lead to 4-1 in the third. But again baker answered.
Cline opened the inning with a walk and strolled home on a triple by Blankenship.
An out later, Braden Phillips singled up the middle to score Cline and cut the deficit to 4-3.
Crook County added a pair of runs in the top of the sixth, and once again Baker responded.
In the bottom of the sixth, Kody Younger was hit by a pitch with one out. Keaton Bachman replaced Younger as a courtesy runner at first base.
Jake Grammon, who also had three hits including a pair of doubles, put runners on second and third. Darren Dolby then lacedthe first pitch he saw to center driving in both runners and pulling Baker to within 6-5.
Crook County scored once in the top of the seventh, setting the stage for Richards' first heroics.
Then tied 7-7, the Cowboys used a single, two walks, a hit batter and a sacrifice fly to take a 8-7 edge.
Baker had a good chance to win the game in the bottom of the inning.
With two outs, Sam Averett was hit by a pitch. Cline then doubled him home with the tying run.
Crook County then intentionally walked Blankenship and Richards to load the bases and give them a chance for an out at any base. The game continued when the next Bulldog struck out.
Younger, who had entered the game in relief on th emound in the eighth, then threw two scoreless innings of relief.
"Kody came in and threw great," Blankenship said. "He did a great job."
In 2.2 innings Younger allowed no hits, struck out two and issued one walk (intentional).
In the bottom of the 10th Richards' hit ignited a celebration that kept players scurrying around the field from one group of fans to another for several minutes.
Crook County 3
1 0 0 - 8
1 0 1 - 9
Alexander, Pfau (8), T. Benton (10) and Cleveland. Averett, Blankenship (6), Baeth (8), Younger (8) and Cline. WP - Younger. LP -T. Benton.
Crook County hits -Larimer, Cleveland 2, Martin 2, Walker 2, Seanz, Kreachbaum 2, Pfau, Stafford, M. Benton, T. Benton. Crook County RBI -Cleveland 4, Kreachbaum, Pfau, Stafford, M. Benton.
Baker hits -Blankenship 3, Richards 3, Grammon 3, Phillips, Dolby, Cline. Baker RBI -Blankenship, Richards 4, Phillips, Dolby 2, Cline.
2B -Martin 2, Kreachbaum, M. Benton, Richards, Grammon 2, Cline. 3B -Blankenship. HR -Cleveland, Pfau, Richards.