CENTRAL POINT — What was an early slugfest settled into a nip-and-tuck, playoff-style baseball game Tuesday at Anhorn Field.

CENTRAL POINT — What was an early slugfest settled into a nip-and-tuck, playoff-style baseball game Tuesday at Anhorn Field.

Until Crater found another gear, that is.

The Comets scored seven runs over the first three innings and tacked on four more in the sixth to pull away for an 11-5 victory over Hermiston in a second-round Class 5A state-playoff game.

Southern Sky Conference champion Crater (21-5-1) finished with 15 hits — six of those the extra-base variety — and got 61/3 innings from pitching ace Chris Thomas, who struck out nine and improved to 10-0.

The third-ranked Comets will host West Albany, which beat Glencoe 7-5 Tuesday, in a quarterfinal game on Friday.

Crater coach Jay Campbell would like to use Thomas again for Friday's contest.

The senior right-hander returned to the mound for the first time Tuesday after two weeks off while recovering from a strained oblique muscle.

"He threw well today for someone who hasn't pitched in two weeks," said Campbell. "I'd like to turn him around for Friday if possible. He recovers pretty well. He has a rubber band for an arm."

Thomas was sharp in the opening frame Tuesday but had to battle through several trouble spots against Hermiston before giving way to reliever Bruce Sanford in the seventh with the bases loaded.

But Thomas had plenty of help from his offense.

Junior first baseman Zach Boskovich went 2-for-3 with all three of his RBIs coming on a towering, three-run home run to left field in the first inning.

Tyler Davis also homered for Crater — a two-run shot in the second inning — for one of his two hits, while Josh Surgeon, Charlie Reina and Tim Hill all contributed two hits apiece. Reina and Davis also had two RBIs and two runs each, with Hill and Matt Hunt both adding two runs each.

"The ball seemed like it was flying today," said Boskovich. "We were hitting the ball really well in batting practice before the game, so I thought we might hit it well in the game. It was a good day for our team."

Boskovich had a scary moment in the second frame when he and right fielder Jesse Warren collided while going after a foul pop up. Both were shaken up but stayed in the game.

"I didn't exactly know where I was at first," laughed Boskovich, who hit his head on Warren's knee. "I rolled my ankle a little, too. But we're fine."

The Comets led 3-0 after the first inning and 7-3 after three complete before Hermiston starting pecking away.

"We came out pretty pumped up and hit a couple of 400-foot foul balls early," said Campbell. "Then I think we went into a lull after a few innings."

That lull lasted through the fourth and fifth innings, which gave the Bulldogs time to get their bats going.

Hermiston (12-17), the No. 3 seed from the Intermountain Conference, whittled the Crater advantage to 7-5 after five innings.

The Bulldogs picked up a run on an RBI groundout by Alberto Rosales in the fourth, and secured their final run in the fifth on a run-scoring double from Noe Garcia.

But the Comets settled back into the swing of things in the sixth inning.

Hunt walked to lead off and Davis and Surgeon each followed with bunt singles to load the bases. Hunt came home on a wild pitch and Reina delivered the big blow with a two-run double to right-center field. Schmelzer capped the scoring with an RBI groundout.

Reina, a .488 hitter during the regular season, went into his final at-bat trying to shake off a hitch that appeared in his swing the previous three plate appearances Tuesday.

"Actually I was asking some of my teammates what I was doing wrong," said the senior catcher. "They said I was dipping my shoulder a little bit and that was why I was getting under the ball too much.

"I just tried to drive the ball (the last at-bat) and found a hole."

The Bulldogs overcame Boskovich's home run with three runs of their own in the top half of the second.

Chance Kopacz doubled and Bryce Baldock and Bill Frost singled to load the bases with no outs. Alberto Rosales followed with a ground-rule double to score two runs and Corey Kelly hit a sacrifice fly to knot the game at 3-all.

Crater, however, answered with Davis' blast to go ahead for good.

"There's no question we are two different ballclubs," said first-year Bulldogs coach Greg Kaatz. "They are strong and can change the game with one swing of the bat. That's not to our strength. We like to get guys on and hit the ball in the gaps.

"Today, they were too much for us to handle."

Hermiston 030 110 0 — 5 9 1

Crater 331 004 x — 11 15 2

Ojeda, Kopacz (6) and Col. Kelly; Thomas, Sanford (7) and Reina. W — Thomas (10-0). L — Ojeda. 2B — H: Kopacz, A. Rosales, Garcia; C: Boskovich, Hill, Reina. 3B — C: Hunt. HR — C: Boskovich, Davis.

Reach reporter Kevin Goff at 776-4483, or e-mail kgoff@mailtribune.com