Winning the Southern Cascade League title seemed like a pretty bold goal this spring considering the recent history of the Cascade Christian...
CENTRAL POINT — Home runs have not been a staple of a very potent Crater offense this baseball season but that doesn't mean the Comets aren't capable of clearing the fence every now and then.
Crater celebrated the start of the Class 6A state playoffs with three home runs — two by senior Anthony Martin — and scored in every inning but one to push past West Linn, 14-6, at Anhorn Field.
Martin blasted a three-run homer to left-center field to cap a string of three straight hits to open the game for Crater and junior Blake Fahndrich added a towering two-run homer later in the first inning to help their team jump to a 5-0 lead on the visiting Lions.
Martin added a blast high off the scoreboard in left field on an 0-2 pitch to lead off the third inning and finished 2-for-3 with three runs and four RBIs. He was intentionally walked in his third at-bat and reached on an error in the sixth to wrap up a solid day at the ballpark.
"We're just a team that's going to scratch runs away," said the first baseman. "Blake and I just put good swings on the ball today."
Fahndrich finished 2-for-3 with three runs and three RBIs and senior Lane Ullom plated three runs and scored once to pace the Comets (18-9).
"I think that doubles our season total because we had three all year," Crater head coach Jay Campbell said of Monday's home-run barrage. "We haven't really been focusing on hitting home runs and we still aren't. The kids got some good pitches to hit there and they didn't miss it, and that was nice to see."
After a season of watching Martin excel at the plate, Campbell certainly wasn't surprised by his big outing.
"He's had a great year," said the eighth-year coach. "Both of those balls were hit pretty well. He's been hitting all year like that, not as many home runs but good swings."
The Comets, who finished second in the Southern Oregon Hybrid, will next play host to Oregon City in Wednesday's second round. The defending state champion Pioneers (16-12) tied for third place in the Three Rivers League and beat Grants Pass 11-1 in the first round.
Crater has yet to play beyond the second round since joining the 6A ranks two years ago. The Comets did make it to the 5A quarterfinal round in 2010 and have won state titles at the 5A (2007) and large-school (2000) levels.
"It's big to get the first one out of the way and to come out swinging like that sets a tone for the rest, hopefully," said Martin. "Hopefully this is something we can build on for Wednesday. One through nine (in our batting order) have complete confidence that they're going to find a way to get it done, which is big. We have no weak spot in the lineup."
Paul Turner also went 2-for-3 with three runs and Tyler Aplin was 2-for-4 with two RBIs for the Comets.
"It's kinda been the same thing all year, with different guys in different games stepping up," said Campbell. "If you can bring good guys to the plate, the more time you turn the lineup over you're going to be successful."
West Linn (6-22) finished fifth in the TRL and was able to put a scare into the Comets with a five-run fourth inning that cut the Lions' deficit to 6-5.
Crater starter Nolan Bastendorff had relatively cruised through three innings but lost command on the mound in the fourth, hitting three batters and giving up four of his six hits allowed in that frame. West Linn's Will Matthiessen supplied a two-run double and Conner Huffman had an RBI single, with the two other runs scoring on a wild pitch and an error.
Crater junior Ty Fox came in with the bases loaded and one out in the fourth and didn't allow a hit in 22/3 innings of relief.
"It was kinda weird and I don't know if it was something mechanically or not," said Campbell. "(Bastendorff) looked good and then all of a sudden the location wasn't there. We had to make a change and you have to tip your hat to them because they hit some balls and put some pressure on us. Ty did a good job of coming in and minimizing the situation."
West Linn 000 500 1 — 6 8 3
Crater 501 224 x — 14 10 4
Meisen, Dailey (2), Mondor (5), Wells (6) and Gans; Bastendorff, Fox (4), Pardee (7) and Aplin, Caballero (7). 2B — WL: Matthiessen; C: Aplin, Ullom. HR — C: Martin 2 (3), Fahndrich (1).
Reach reporter Kris Henry at 541-776-4488, email@example.com, www.facebook.com/krishenryMT or www.twitter.com/Kris_Henry