If Hood River Valley ever has to move up to the 6A level again, the school can be assured its baseball team is comfortable playing teams in its former Mt. Hood Conference home.
The Eagles improved to 5-1 on the season with an 8-4 win over Barlow Friday, taking advantage of a Bruin fielding implosion in the second inning to plate six runs in the frame.
The win also pushed the Eagles to 4-1 against 6A competition. In fact, through Tuesday, they had yet to play a 5A team. Their only loss came at the hands of 6A No. 1 Clackamas, and all four 6A wins have come against former Mt. Hood Conference opponents.
The win over Barlow created a few measuring sticks for HRV.
"This gives us a lot of confidence," HRV coach Erich Harjo said. "They put in a lot of work and it's paying off."
Barlow opened the door wide open for HRV in the second inning through four errors, and the Eagles repeatedly took advantage of the Bruin mistakes.
After Barlow jumped back in the game with four runs in the fourth, the Eagles were able to stop the bleeding and then add a few insurance to keep the Bruins at arms' length the rest of the way.
They were even able to slam to door in the ninth inning after a two-out error gave the Bruins one final gasp.
After Barlow pitcher Campbell Summerfield was able to leave to HRV base runners stranded in the first, things disintegrated for the Bruins from the outset of the bottom of the second.
Nick Weekly wound up at second to start the inning after Barlow centerfielder Alex Pemberton misjudged a deep fly ball.
When Luke Kopecky attempted to bunt him to third, Campbell botched the throw to first, allowing Weekly to score. Gabi Nuño followed with a walk and Alex Jimenez drag-bunted a single to load the bases. Summerfield was on the brink of getting out of the jam with no further damage when he struck out Ty Bofferding and got Cody Walker to ground back to the mound for a force out at the plate.
But Barlow's fielding blunders came back to bite them again.
Ryan Colesar chopped a ground ball to third baseman Kyle Demming, who threw low to first and allowed another run to score.
The Bruins still had a chance to get out of the inning with only two runs in when Kyle Beam sent a fly ball to right field in foul territory. However right-fielder Cameron Hawkins muffed the catch, allowing the HRV catcher to stay alive at the plate.
He then walked and forced in a run and bring pitcher Lucio Alaniz to the plate.
The HRV pitcher helped his own cause when he blasted a double to right center field to bring home three runs and give the Eagles a 6-0 lead.
Barlow got right back in the game in the fourth, when it opened the inning with a single, walk and RBI single against Alaniz. Harjo lifted his starting pitcher at that point to save his arm for several games this week.
"We're just trying not to run pitch counts up," Harjo said. "As we get closer to league we'll ride guys harder."
Barlow went on to plate three runs against Weekly in the inning, with two of them charged to Alaniz, before he was able to get of the inning with the Eagles lead trimmed to 6-4.
HRV added a run in the bottom of the inning when Alaniz again helped his own cause with a double to deep centerfield to bring in Cody Walker.
Walker helped HRV get out of the fifth unscathed with a heads-up defensive play. On a ground ball by Cameron Hawkins, Walker pump-faked to first and threw to third to get Tanner Woods, who had led off the inning with a double, trying to advance.
Barlow threatened again in the sixth when the loaded the bases with one out against Gabi Nuño. However, Nuño struck out Thom Houston on a wicked curve ball and then got Woods to ground to second to end the threat.
The Eagles tacked on a final insurance run in the sixth on a groundout by Oscar Anaya to lead by four heading into the seventh.
After Nuño got two quick outs, a pop-up on the infield should have ended, but the ball bounced out of Weekly's mitt to extend the inning. However Kyle Deming then popped up to Walker at shortstop to end the game.