Photo by Ben Mitchell
THE COLUMBIA RIVER CONFERENCE TITLE went to the Eagles again this season, with HRV clinching following a win over Pendleton and Hermiston’s loss to The Dalles Friday. HRV still played hard in Monday’s game against the Bulldogs and got the come-from-behind 6-5 win. Above, Skyler Hunter makes a leaping catch.
For the second year in a row, the HRV Eagles are the Columbia River Conference baseball champions.
The Eagles (20-4, 10-1 CRC) sealed the deal last Friday after getting a nail-biting, one-run road win over the Pendleton Buckaroos (11-12, 2-8), coupled with The Dalles’ surprising 5-1 road win over Hermiston the same evening. That made it impossible for the second-place Bulldogs to catch HRV in the CRC standings and guaranteed the Eagles to play a host to a to-be-determined team in the first round of the playoffs.
“It feels good, obviously not as much as the first one did last year,” HRV Head Coach Erich Harjo said of the title — last year’s being the first conference title for the team in 22 years. “It ultimately comes down to the results of hard work and consistency day-in and day-out this year.”
The Bucks sure made HRV work for the title and the two teams went back and forth throughout all seven innings. Skyler Hunter started things off in the first by scoring off a wild pitch and then Pendleton scored due to an error and a single in the bottom of the same. Pendleton pushed the lead out to 3-1 off a single in the bottom of the second, but then HRV answered with three quick scores in the top of the fourth to go up 4-3. A ground out by Connor Coerper scored Kellan Duffy, which was followed by a single from Hunter that scored Andy Schmidt two plays later and then Pendleton’s pitcher, Quinn Cockburn walked Dallas Buckley with bases loaded, plating Chase Lariza.
HRV grabbed its largest lead of the night off a Buckley single that scored Coerper and put HRV up 5-3 in the top of the sixth. Again, the Bucks had an answer, hitting a two-run single to tie it up at 5-5. In the bottom of the seventh, Casey Ward scored off a double to center field by Hunter and Morgan Williams capitalized on a wild pitch to score the final HRV run, making it 7-5. Pendleton also scored off a wild pitch in the bottom of the seventh to pull within one, but couldn’t add another.
Coerper started the game on the mound for HRV and struck out six while giving up four hits and one earned run in five innings. Patrick Harvey closed out the game with a pair of strikes, four hits and two earned runs.
The win gave HRV the season sweep of Pendleton — the first HRV has ever swept the Bucks in the four-game CRC series.
“It’s hard to beat somebody four times in a season… that was a lot of fun,” Harjo said.
The win over Pendleton and The Dalles’ win over Hermiston made Monday’s game against the Bulldogs anticlimactic as far as CRC standings were concerned. However, the Eagles were no less motivated to win and wanted revenge after getting embarrassed by Hermiston at home on April 26 in a 9-1 decision.
“It couldn’t have happened at a better time, losing that game,” Harjo reflected. “If you’re going to lay an egg against a team, you want to do it at a time like that… it kind of helped us regroup.”
HRV had trouble beating Hermiston once again Monday night. The Eagles briefly led the game after Hunter scored in the first off a single to center field by Buckley, but Pendleton scored two to answer in the next inning, one of which was due to an error. Lariza scored on a passed ball to tie it up 2-2 in the bottom of the second.
HRV faltered in the third and fourth innings and found itself in a 5-2 hole after Hermiston was able to string some hits together, scoring off three singles.
That deficit lasted until the bottom of the seventh inning, when, with one out, Duffy stepped up the plate and hit a three-run double — a line drive to left — scoring Buckley, Williams, and Harvey to tie the game. Three plays later with still only one out, Montana Kurahara reached first on a fielder’s choice allowing Duffy to score the winning run.
The team looked to finish off the league season with a sweep of The Dalles on the road (9-13, 3-7) Friday at 4:30 p.m., then play a nonleague game at 6A Jesuit Wednesday. for some extra practice. Harjo said that the Eagles are looking to retain their No. 2 ranking in 5A in order to host as many playoff games as possible.