Eagle baseball pulled off a big-time win Wednesday afternoon in the first round of the OSAA 5A state championships. HRV, seeded No. 14 in the 16-team bracket after winning a play-in game last week at Bend, upset Springfield with a 5-2 win to advance to the tournament quarterfinals and knock the No. 3 seed out of the tournament on their home turf.
Meanwhile, on the same side of the bracket, No. 6-seeded Pendleton defeated No. 11 Corvallis the same evening to advance to the quarterfinal matchup against Hood River, which was scheduled to be played Friday at Pendleton (results unavailable as of presstime). The winner of that game will go on to play the winner of No. 2 Crescent Valley and No. 7 West Albany on June 3 in the tournament semifinals.
Ryan Ward pitched a complete game against the Millers, who finished atop their 5A Special District 3 win a 19-7 overall record. Ward and the Eagle defense gave up just two hits in the game, leading to a run in the first and one in the seventh, and although blemished by three errors, the team’s eight hits compensated for that statistic.
The biggest single play of the game — and perhaps of the season thus far — came from standout third baseman Kellan Duffy in the top of the seventh. With two men on base, two outs and a full count, Duffy smashed a three-run homer over the center field fence to give the Eagles a four-run lead in their final turn at bat.
Springfield managed one more run in the bottom of the seventh, but an Alex Jimenez double play at centerfield and a strikeout by Ward ended the inning and gave the Eagles the major upset victory.
HRV scored its first run in the second inning, off a breakdown in Springfield pitching that resulted in a hit by Patrick Harvey (2-for-4), two hit-by-pitches and a walk; they then scored another in the third off Ward, who grounded to get on base and then stole home to take the lead with two outs in the inning.
Defensively, Ward took the win from the mound with five strikeouts and an average of 13.4 pitches per inning. Skyler Hunter gets infielder player of the game honors for his solid performance at shortstop, where he made six of seven plays for outs at the position.
With marked enthusiasm, coach Erich Harjo gave Ward credit for his leadership role in the team’s biggest win of the season. “It starts with Ryan Ward on the mound,” he said. “He really has the big-game mentality. When he knows he’s going to be facing a good team, he prepares mentally and does everything in his power to get ready. Behind him, everyone played very solid defense and came through with clutch hitting to get us the win.”
Harjo said the team is pumped to have another shot at Pendleton this season. During the Columbia River Conference schedule, HRV lost all four games to the Buckaroos, who finished atop the CRC with a 5A No. 6 ranking, but all but one of these games were close, and HRV beat The Dalles in three out of four games, while The Dalles beat Pendleton three out of four.
“We were going through a tough time in our season when we weren’t playing very well,” Harjo said. “But we ended the season playing a whole lot better, and we’re riding that momentum into the playoffs. It’s really fun to be a part of the program right now. As long as we can minimize free passes and play good defense, we’re going to be very hard to beat, considering the way we’re swinging the bat.”
n In other 5A playoff news, No. 12 Hermiston lost 4-0 to No. 5 Sherwood May. 28 to finish its season and a second big upset in the bracket came when No. 1 Bend lost 6-4, at home, against No. 16 Marist. Semifinal games are scheduled for June 3, followed by the championship game June 7 at Keizer’s Volcano Stadium.