Winning the Southern Cascade League title seemed like a pretty bold goal this spring considering the recent history of the Cascade Christian...
Cody Coggins has experienced a lot of success on the baseball diamond in his three varsity seasons at Cascade Christian High.
Coggins played on the Challengers' state champion team two years ago and was there in a 2-1 loss to Bandon-Pacific in the 2013 quarterfinals.
The junior shortstop certainly did his part in helping Cascade Christian reach the semifinals again this season with a three-hit effort and a flawless game in the field as the Challengers defeated error-prone St. Mary's, 10-2, in the Class 3A state quarterfinals at U.S. Cellular Community Park Friday.
The Southern Cascade Hybrid champion Challengers (22-5) will host Horizon Christian, which won 10-5 over Pleasant Hill, in the semifinals Tuesday. Cascade Christian dropped a doubleheader, 6-5 and 10-0, at Horizon Christian earlier this season.
"This is time to get serious and St. Mary's was the stepping stone to the next level," said the experienced Coggins. "We really haven't changed anything except ramping up the intensity We have the talent to make a deep run."
The Crusaders (17-11) came into the playoff contest winning six of their last seven games. The only blemish was a 7-6 loss to Cascade Christian on May 6. It was the first time since 1982 that St. Mary's has reached the state quarterfinals.
"That was the shocking part," said St. Mary's second-year coach Sean Gallagher about his team's eight errors Friday. "Our defense has been solid for the last six or seven games."
Cascade Christian jumped on St. Mary's sophomore starter Tanner Smith for four runs in the first inning.
Smith walked Cooper Clark with one out, then Coggins hit a long fly to left field that fell in for a double. Tristan Jones followed with a sacrifice fly and Will Weaver singled. James Carpenter delivered the big hit on a line drive to right field that got past Duncan O'Boyle and rolled all the way to the fence for a three-run homer.
Once the Challengers took command with the early 4-0 lead, starter Kyle Ferguson never allowed the Crusaders' dangerous offense to get in gear.
"We hit (Ferguson) hard last time," said Gallagher. "But the kid is a fierce competitor. He was throwing all his pitches for strikes and sequencing his pitches effectively."
Ferguson (7-2) pitched six innings in his first career playoff start before giving way to Weaver in the seventh. The senior right-hander allowed five hits, struck out six and surrendered one earned run.
"I relied on the cutter a lot," said Ferguson. "I tried to get ahead of the batters and painted the corners. I respect their hitters."
Cascade Christian first-year coach Nate Mayben has been impressed with Ferguson's late-season improvement.
"The last three or four starts have been lights out against some very good teams," said Mayben. "We have a tremendous amount of trust in Kyle."
"He had everything working," added Mayben. "Kyle throws strikes. His fastball is not overpowering but he mixes up his pitches very well."
Coggins didn't let the Challengers attack go stagnate after taking the initial lead. The team leader doubled in the third, walked and scored in the fifth and provided an RBI single and tallied the final run in a four-run outburst in the sixth.
"(Smith) was throwing a lot of off-speed pitches," said Coggins. "So we were trying to sit on the curveball and made the adjustment hitting. We also did a good job running the bases and forcing them into some of the errors they made."
Mayben was pleased with his team's defensive effort against a St. Mary's squad that puts a lot of pressure on a defense with an aggressive style of play. He also acknowledged taking advantage of the Crusaders' miscues.
"We did capitalize on a few of their fielding mistakes," said Mayben. "Our focus was to play catch and stay calm. We made every play except one throw that shouldn't have been thrown in the first place. That's all you can ask for."
St. Mary's 010 010 0 — 2 5 8
Cascade Christian 400 024 x — 10 8 1
T. Smith, McCabe (6) and Mulholland; Ferguson, Weaver (7) and Jones. W — Ferguson (7-2). L — T. Smith. 2B — SM: McCabe; CC: Coggins 2. HR — CC: Carpenter.
Reach reporter Frank Silow at 541-776-4480 or email@example.com