It wasn't exactly a fitting end to the kind of battled waged Thursday between the Grants Pass Nuggets and the Canyon Crushers, but something had to give in the American Legion AAA state tournament at Harry & David Field.
Grants Pass and the Salem-area Crushers battled tooth-and-nail through 11 innings before the pressure applied by Canyon finally prevailed. After stranding runners for four straight innings, the Crushers broke through in the 12th inning with an unearned run to walk away with a 2-1 triumph.
Canyon's Alex Emerson reached on a fielding error by first baseman Anthony Martin to open the bottom of the 12th and advanced to second when Mason Fessler's blooper fell in front of a diving Josh Cowell in center field.
After a wild pitch by reliever Tyler Bennett advanced both runners, Ty Wyatt struck out and then the Nuggets opted to intentionally walk David Harryman to set up a force play. With pinch-hitter Bradley Cock at the plate, Bennett's 1-0 offering skipped in the dirt and away from catcher Evan Erskine to allow Emerson to trot home for the game-winner.
"I wish I could've been able to block that for our team but it didn't happen," said Erskine, who played shortstop the past two years at Crater High.
"It is what it is," he added of the close contest. "You can't change it now but we would've liked to be on the other end. The disappointing part is we could've been them and they could've been us."
With the win, the Crushers improved to 2-0 in the state tournament and will face the only other unbeaten team — the DeMarini Dirtbags — at 7 tonight. The Dirtbags defeated the Columbia Gorge Hustlers 3-2 Thursday night.
Grants Pass (35-11) faces an elimination game at noon today against the Portland Eastside Barbers.
"You're not going to see a better amateur baseball game than that one," Nuggets head coach Mike Reese said. "We wanted to come out on the other end, and we didn't, but this is a double-elimination tournament and we'll find out what kind of character we've got. I believe in my guys and I believe we will bounce back. From here on out it's do or die."
Fessler finished 4-for-6 and Hunter Gates went 3-for-4, but Emerson was the prime performer for the Crushers after scoring both of his team's runs and pitching 10 strong innings for a no-decision. The left-hander limited the Nuggets to six hits and two walks with seven strikeouts and one hit batter on 144 pitches.
Grants Pass' lone run came in the sixth inning when Josh Cowell singled and moved all the way to third on an errant pickoff attempt by Emerson. One out later, Tyler Bennett slapped an RBI single to center field.
No other runners advanced beyond second base against Emerson, who faced more than four batters in only one of his 10 innings.
"We were looking for a little bit of an offensive spark and we really didn't get it," said Erskine, who went 2-for-5. "We'd get a couple base hits and get runners in scoring position but it just didn't work out."
Canyon answered with a run in the bottom of the sixth on a sacrifice fly by Wyatt that plated Emerson, who was hit by a pitch and advanced to third on a balk and a groundout.
Grants Pass Nuggets 000 001 000 000 — 1 7 2
Canyon Crushers 000 001 000 001 — 2 12 1
Painter, Bennett (6) and Erskine; Emerson, Fessler (11) and Gates. W — Fessler. L — Bennett. 2B — GP: Cole, Herklotz; C: Gates, Fessler.
NW STAR EAST COUNTY KNIGHTS 6, CORVALLIS GERDING BUILDERS 3 — Scooter Turin's two-run single in the seventh inning helped the East County Knights pull away and avoid elimination at Harry & David Field.
Bryce Tilton and Daymond Fritsch each had two hits for the Knights, who will face Columbia Gorge in another elimination game at 3:30 p.m. today.
Evan Jones smacked a solo home run for the East County Knights, who used a three-run fourth inning to gain the advantage. In the fourth, Fritsch and Cameron Young walked with the bases loaded and Blake Robison scored on a wild pitch.
Cameron Hawkins earned the complete-game win, allowing one earned run on six hits with three walks and six strikeouts.
Corvallis was led by Nathan Reynolds, who went 2-for-5 with two runs and one RBI. The Gerding Builders committed four errors to finish 0-2 in the tourney.
NW Star Knights 000 310 200 — 6 9 2
Corvallis Gerding Builders 001 001 010 — 3 6 4
Hawkins and Fritsch; Ropp, Storm (6) and Liner. W — Hawkins. L — Ropp. 2B — EC: Robison. HR — EC: Jones.
DEMARINI DIRTBAGS 3, COLUMBIA GORGE HUSTLERS 2 — Kade Fast went 3-for-5 with one run and one RBI and Connor Mattison pitched eight steady innings to keep the DeMarini Dirtbags unbeaten at the state tournament.
The Dirtbags will face another Salem-area team, the Canyon Crushers, at 7 tonight in a battle of 2-0 teams.
Mattison scattered seven hits with five strikeouts and three walks to earn the victory, while Spencer DesBiens was 2-for-4 with one run scored for the Dirtbags.
Columbia Gorge (16-8) will play an elimination game at 3:30 p.m. today against the NW Star East County Knights. Steve Bartells went 2-for-3 with one run and one RBI and Nick Weekly 3-for-4 with one RBI to lead the Hustlers.
DeMarini Dirtbags 100 001 100 — 3 7 1
Columbia Gorge Hustlers 000 010 010 — 2 7 1
Mattison, Peterson (9) and Moskal; Walker, Watt (7) and Copper. W — Mattison. L — Walker. S — Peterson. 2B — D: Fast; CG: Bartells.