The Hood River Valley baseball team showed it could compete against one of the elite teams in the state Tuesday against Jesuit.
Now the next step is for the Eagles to beat them.
“The goal this year was to beat a team like that,” said HRV coach Erich Harjo. “We still have a chance to do it this year, and whether it’s this year or next, we’ll be there eventually.”
HRV hung around with Jesuit for six innings at Traner Field before the Crusaders scored five runs in the sixth inning to put away an 8-2 win.
The Eagles only managed to put the ball in play once against star Jesuit pitcher Christian Martinek, but they were able to work the count and get the sophomore’s pitch count up so that he departed after three innings.
“We saw some great pitching,” Harjo said, “some of the best in the state.”
He left with his team in command with a 3-0 lead, after the Crusaders scored three times in the bottom of the second. However, the margin could have been much greater had HRV hurler Gabi Nuño not buckled down on the mound and gotten some help from his defense.
Nuño struggled with his command early, walking five batters and hitting another in the first two innings.
Jesuit appeared poised to knock Nuño and the Eagles right out of the game with nobody out in the second.
Peter Davis reached to start the inning after being hit by a pitch and Matt Decker followed with a walk.
Davis sprinted for home on a single by Martinek, and scored just under the tag by catcher Kyle Beam.
Nuño then walked Brian DeGrandmont to load the bases and Nicholas Choruby drove in a run with a sacrifice fly.
Things appeared to be about to get out of hand when Nuño walked Keenan Hatfield to force in a run.
However, Nuño escaped disaster when he got Harrison Bruce to hit a sharp ground ball to Cody Walker at shortstop and the Eagles turned it into rally-killing double play.
Martinek refused to let the Eagles do any rallying of their own, though.
After striking out the side in order in the first, he allowed a runner on a walk to Nick Weekly, before striking out two more to end the inning. In the third, Nuño grounded out to third for the only fair ball the Eagles hit against the Jesuit pitcher, and then got Alix Jimenez looking for the second out. Cody Walker walked and Ryan Colesar was hit by a pitch to put to runners on, but he struck out Nick Weekly to end the threat.
In the meantime, Nuño continued to dance into and out of danger. With runners on first and second and two in the third, Martinek blasted a double into the left-centerfield gap. The Eagles were able to keep Jesuit off the board, though, with a perfect relay from Jimenez to Walker to Beam to cut down Davis trying to score.
With the Crusaders’ Metro League opener coming up in a week, the Crusaders decided to save Martinek’s arm and lifted him in favor of Matt Decker to open the fourth and the Eagles quickly took advantage of the change.
No longer facing 90-plus mph fastballs, Alaniz opened the bottom of the fourth with the Eagles’ first hit, a single to center field, and moved to second on a groundout by Walker.
After Alaniz stole third, Luke Kopecky drove him in with a base hit.
Kopecky wound up at third himself following a passed ball and a groundout by Ty Bofferding before being driven home on a Nuño double. However, the Eagles left the tying run at second when Jimenez struck out to end the inning.
Bofferding relieved Nuño after four innings on the mound and continued the trend of HRV having to work itself out of jams.
He left two base runners stranded in the fifth and then managed to escape a bases-loaded, one-out situation in the sixth when he got Hatfield on an infield pop-up and a nice play from Colesar at second to retire Bruce.
Jesuit refused to be denied in the sixth, though. After Dempsey opened the inning getting hit by a pitch, Davis knocked a pitch over the left field wall for a two-run home run and a three-run lead.
Jesuit then played add-on singles by Charuby and Bruce to drive in three more runs.
“We talked about finishing games after the game,” Harjo said. “We don’t want to be a 6½-inning team.”
Before being within a run of Jesuit heading into the seventh inning, the Eagles hung with Clackamas March 16 before the Cavaliers scored 11 runs in the seventh to put the game away.
The Eagles were closing out their non-league schedule at Summit Friday, before opening league play at Pendleton April 13. Their next home game is a doubleheader against Pendleton April 21 at noon and 2 p.m.
After running through a non-league schedule that has them ranked No. 7 at 5A heading into their final non-league tuneup, Harjo was happy with how his team has run the gauntlet.
“We had a much more competitive non-league schedule this year than we did last year,” Harjo said. “I have a pretty good idea of where guys are now. It’s been a good run.”
n Hawks fall to Stanfield, down TDW JV: Horizon Christian trailed 2-1 after three inning, but Stanfield scored seven runs in the fourth and went on to beat Horizon 12-2 via the ten run rule at Stanfield in a non-league game Tuesday. Mitch Engel had an RBI double, teammate Sam Anthony was 2-for-2 with the other RBI, and Max Totaro scored both Horizon runs. Horizon committed six errors against last year's Class 2A-1A state champions.
Horizon tightened things up defensively (committing one error) two days later during a 9-7 victory against The Dalles JV.
Three Horizon pitchers –– Jeff Wells, RJ Hicks and Weston Hobkirk –– combined for 10 ground-ball outs against The Dalles. Micah Engel and Jared Davis were among the multiple-hit performers for Horizon, and Ian Rasmussen's seventh-inning triple to deep centerfield was another offensive highlight for the Hawks.