With ‘monkey off their back’, Eagles begin league play

HRV baseball beats Corvallis 9-8 in last non-league game

The Hood River Valley Eagles baseball team utilized error free defense, strong pitching and an explosive offense to get a big win in its final nonleague contest. Ryan Colesar’s game-winning RBI single helped propel the Eagles to a 9-8 victory over the Corvallis Spartans Thursday at Hood River Valley High.

Colesar’s clutch sixth-inning, two-out single drove home senior catcher Kyle Beam (3-for-3, two singles, home run) for the tie-breaking, go-ahead run. Beam, who drew a leadoff walk and stole second base, sprinted home on Colesar’s sharply hit grounder to right field.

“I’ve been in a lot of similar situations like that, so it’s about time that I came through for my team,” said Colesar, a senior shortstop, who batted 1-for-2, walked and reached base on an error. “That’s the most exciting opportunity to have in a baseball game. That was the biggest hit of the year for me and it was a real team effort for us to get an awesome win.”

It was a momentum-building victory for coach Eric Harjo’s Eagles, who begin their 12-game Columbia River Conference schedule Saturday against the Pendleton Buckaroos. The Eagles (7-6) will meet the defending CRC champion and No. 4 ranked Buckaroos (8-5) in a noon doubleheader at Pendleton High School.

“This was a big win because it gives us lots of momentum going into our league opener Saturday,” said Harjo. “Our goal obviously is to win the league title. I think this team is capable of doing that, but we just have to take it game by game. This win really solidifies the potential for success that our team has this season.”

The Eagles jumped out to an early 3-0 lead in the first inning, highlighted by a two-RBI double by senior first baseman Nick Weekly (2-for-4, double, single, run scored). Corvallis (6-7) trimmed the margin to 3-1 in the second and then scored four in the top of the third for a 5-3 advantage. An RBI double by Nathan Reynolds and a two-RBI single by Zach Humphreys helped fuel the Spartan offense. Reynolds is the nephew of former Seattle Mariner and current Major League Baseball Network television announcer Harold Reynolds.

HRV responded in the bottom of the frame when Beam ignited a rally with a leadoff single. Freshman third baseman Kellan Duffy (2-for-3, two doubles, three runs, two RBI) followed with a blast deep to the 360-foot centerfield fence, driving in Beam. Three batters later, Duffy scored on Ryan Ward’s RBI single, tying it 5-5.

Sophomore second baseman Kameron Walker (1-for-3) followed with an RBI single driving home Colesar, who earlier walked, to give HRV a 6-5 edge after three. The seesaw battle continued in the fourth and rock-solid defense by Beam and relief pitcher Daniel Romero helped thwart a Spartan comeback effort.

Beam picked off a base runner at first who was trying to steal, when he fired a bullet to Weekly for a key putout. Romero, who went to the mound to relieve junior pitcher Nick Miller, induced a groundout at first of the final batter of the inning for the Spartans, who came back to knot it at 6-6.

In the bottom of the frame, Beam hammered a ball well over the 350-foot left field fence for a solo homer to lift the Eagles in front 7-6. Duffy then proceeded to smash a ball deep to center for a double and he scored on a Spartan infield throwing error. Weekly singled and then stole a base on a Spartan overthrow at second, allowing Duffy to sprint home from third and make it 8-6 after four innings.

“We were mentally ready to pull out a big win today, which is what we needed in preparation for the beginning of league play on Saturday,” said Beam, who has five homers this year. “We kept them (Corvallis) off-balance and we had good pitching when we needed it. All three of our pitchers did a good job today. Hopefully, our momentum will continue and maybe we’ll get a couple of wins against Pendleton.”

Corvallis again came back, tying it 8-8 in the fifth, while holding the Eagles scoreless in the bottom half of the inning.

“We’re definitely an exciting team to watch and this was a fun game to see today,” said Harjo. “It seems like every contest is a one run game that often goes down to the last at-bat. We’ve had four one-run losses, so it’s nice to finally have one go our way. We needed to get the monkey off our back and we did it against a tough Corvallis team.”

Sparkling defense by senior outfielder Jacob Quintanilla and Romero helped HRV shut down the Spartans in the sixth. Quintanilla caught two sharply hit long fly balls in left field and Romero recorded one of his three total strikeouts, as Corvallis went down one, two, three.

Following Colesar’s game-winning hit in the bottom of the sixth, HRV closed it out with strong defensive play in the seventh. Romero fielded a bunt and threw to Weekly for the first out. Corvallis continued its offensive pressure though and loaded the bases. Walker showed nerves of steel as he caught a popup fly after making the clutch play while running in stride. He then caught a line drive for the final out and the Eagles celebrated the big win.

“A couple of balls hit to me scared me a little, but luckily, I was able to make the play,” said Walker. “Getting the second out of the seventh was the toughest pop-up fly ball catch that I’ve ever had to make. We hit the ball pretty well, so it was good to see our team come out and do that. I think we can be a contender for the league title and that’s our goal. We just have to step up our performance level a notch when we play at Pendleton Saturday.”

The two evenly matched squads combined for 24 total hits with both teams getting 12 hits. HRV senior pitcher Ty Bofferding started on the mound and pitched two and two-third innings before being relieved by Miller in the third. Miller allowed two hits and walked two in one inning pitched. Romero earned the win with three and a third innings of strong pitching, while allowing just two runs scored.

HRV’s next home game is a 4:30 p.m. contest Tuesday against Pendleton. HRV won one out of four games against the Bucks last year, including a 9-7 win in its CRC opener exactly one year ago (April 13, 2012). In nonleague play, HRV is ranked first offensively (7.3 runs per game average) among the four CRC squads with a total of 95 runs scored.

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