Photo by Ben Mitchell
CONNOR COERPER winds up for a pitch during Friday’s quarterfinal game against Ashland in Hood River. In his playoff debut, the sophomore only gave up one hit and struck out four Grizzlies batters.
As of Tuesday, May 31, 2016
Two home runs by senior pitcher/outfielder Patrick Harvey and a one-hitter thrown by sophomore Connor Coerper in his playoff debut helped lift No. 2 HRV over No. 7 Ashland, 2-0, in a defensive duel that took place in Hood River Friday night.
The 5A quarterfinal matchup between the Grizzlies and the Eagles was a vast departure from HRV’s last game, where the Eagles walloped Eagle Point 17-3. HRV put up six hits against Ashland, bookended by Harvey’s homers in the first and sixth innings.
The defeat of Ashland advanced HRV to a semifinal game against yet another Midwestern League team — Churchill, this time — in a game that was scheduled for Tuesday at 4:30 p.m. in Hood River (results not available at press time). No. 6 Churchill defeated No. 3 Crater 7-5 Friday night to advance to the semis.
In a game where the Eagles struggled at times to get going against Ashland, Harvey, who leads the team with a .730 slugging percentage, was happy to step up, sending one over the left field wall to get HRV on the board, then another over the right field wall for the insurance run.
‘I knew that last inning we really had to get a run across to extend our lead for Connor (Coerper) up there, who was throwing a great game, and I was just happy to get another run and help close out the game for us.’
“I knew that last inning we really had to get a run across to extend our lead for Connor up there, who was throwing a great game, and I was just happy to get another run and help close out the game for us,” he said Friday evening.
HRV Head Coach Erich Harjo has looked to Harvey to spark the team both on the mound and behind the plate this season and was thrilled with his performance Friday.
“He’s kind of a notorious first-ball hitter. He swings so hard — he’s looking to murder the baseball every time he hits,” he explained. “We’ve seen him do that a couple of times this year, when he’ll just go off in a game like that. Those two runs, man, that feels like 10 runs in a game like that. I was just really happy for Patrick, happy for the team — just really pleased.”
Skyler Hunter added a triple for the team, followed by singles from Montana Kurahara, Dallas Buckley, and Kellan Duffy. For a large part of the evening, Ashland’s ace, junior Peyton Fuller, was able to stymie HRV hitters, and both Harvey and Harjo gave kudos to Fuller’s performance.
“Outstanding — a good ol’ fashioned pitchers’ duel,” Harvey said. “The team that scored first was probably going to win. We knew going into in we were going to see a good righty. We just battled and found a way to win.”
Harjo said Fuller may have been the best pitcher HRV has seen all season, but Coerper and HRV’s defense upped their game to get the win.
“We knew what we were going to get. The Fuller kid that they threw, he’s really good and he’s only a junior. We knew that he was good and that they could swing the bat and we needed exactly what Coerper did,” he said. “We needed (Coerper) to keep him off-balance, we needed phenomenal defensive plays. Kellan and Skyler both played awesome defense in the first inning to bail Coerper out because he had a 28-pitch first inning. It was phenomenal. The guys just amp their level of competition every single time they play this time of year.”
But as good as Fuller was, Coerper was better. The sophomore confounded Ashland’s offense, which never made it past second base. Coerper pitched the entire game, striking out four and walking two in front of what was another capacity crowd at Traner Field. The lone hit Coerper surrendered came in the fifth inning off a line-drive single to center field.
“I thought he was awesome. He’s a true competitor,” Harjo said. “I never really worry about him as a baseball player because I think he’s got the right mindset, especially for a pitcher. He doesn’t let a whole lot get to him and he’s tough. He’s just flat-out tough… I’m really impressed with what he did as a sophomore. It just bodes well for the future.”
Harvey said he liked his team’s energy, but added that “obviously, we’re not going to shut out every team so we’re going to have to probably find a way to manufacture a couple more runs” in the game against Churchill.
Like their other Midwestern League opponents this playoff series, HRV did not meet Churchill at all in the regular season, but had common opponents in Wilsonville and Redmond, both of whom Churchill and HRV beat.