Athletic directors at the Class 5A level have proven to be the most invested in controlling their own playoff destiny since a switch to the...
The two-seam fastball was the out pitch for Isaiah Luzny in the Class 3A baseball state semifinals Tuesday.
The Cascade Christian sophomore pitcher tossed a three-hit shutout as Cascade Christian defeated the Bandon/Pacific Tigers, 5-0, at Harry & David Field.
The Challengers (23-7) will go for their first baseball state championship Friday at Volcanoes Stadium in Keizer against Santiam Christian, a 6-0 winner over Burns.
Luzny, a lanky left-hander struck out 11 and had a no-hitter through five innings in a 113-pitch performance. He also collected two hits and scored twice.
"I wanted to keep the ball low," said Luzny. "I was striking them out with the two-seam fastball that broke outside."
Luzny was hooked up in a tight pitching duel with Bandon's Mychal Yarber, who allowed just five hits and struck out nine. But Yarber was victimized by some shoddy defense from his teammates.
Luzny only retired the Tigers (22-4) in order in the fifth inning but came up with big pitches when necessary to quell any threats.
"(Luzny) dug himself some holes," said Cascade Christian head coach John Bruce, "but every time he got out of it. We've seen him sharper. He just competed really well.
Challenger catcher Tristan Jones never had a doubt about Luzny, his self-professed "best friend."
"(Luzny) has so much confidence out there," said Jones. "He was dialed in. He wanted to work fast and efficiently. His down-and-out fastball was stifling that team."
The Challengers broke a scoreless tie with an unearned run in the third inning. Justin Cheney opened the frame with a solid single to right — the first hit of the game.
Cheney was sacrificed to second by designated hitter Tim Martin and moved to third on a passed ball. After Alex Miller walked, Cody Coggins squared for a two-out bunt on the first pitch, but the ball squirted away from catcher Chance Garrett and Cheney raced home on the passed ball.
"I felt we could do it from there," said Luzny. "I knew I could pitch well enough to get the win."
Luzny certainly did his part from then on.
Over the final four innings, he struck out six and allowed just one runner past second. He also scored the Challengers' second and third runs. He led off the fourth with a single and eventually scored from third when Garrett dropped a throw at the plate to put out a sliding Luzny.
Travis Gallagher ended Luzny's no-hit bid when he opened the sixth with a double but never advanced.
Luzny's single to start the sixth began a three-run rally on two other hits and an error. Kyle Ferguson provided an RBI single, Cheney hit a sacrifice fly and pinch-hitter Luke Dusenbury drove in a run with a groundout.
"We heard (Luzny) was tough," said Bandon coach Tyler Pendergast, a former Phoenix High and Medford Mustangs standout. "He throws hard for a lefty. We couldn't put a few hits in a row together. That's been working for us in the playoffs.
"They're solid and swing the bat," added Pendergast. "We made a couple of mental errors and they took advantage of it."
The Tigers threatened in the seventh by putting runners on first and third with two outs. That brought a trip to the mound from Bruce, who thought about going to the bullpen.
"He said, 'I can do this. I can finish it out,'" said Bruce.
And Luzny backed it up by getting Yarber to groundout to first baseman Cheney on his final pitch of the game.
Bandon/Pacific 000 000 0 — 0 3 1
Cascade Christian 001 103 x — 5 5 1
Yarber and Garrett; Luzny and Jones. W — Luzny. L — Yarber. 2B — BP: Gallagher.
Reach reporter Frank Silow at 541-776-4480 or by email at email@example.com