Phoenix's season ends abruptly
The Dalles halts Pirates' playoff run
TALENT -- The Dalles got away with saving its ace pitcher for the semifinals of the Class 3A state baseball playoffs.
But coach Steve Sugg didn't have to take a major gamble in going with No. 2 starter Adrian Stranz against the defending state champion Phoenix Pirates Monday in a quarterfinal matchup at Hagler-James Park.
Stranz, a hard-throwing junior right-hander, relied on what he calls his slurve pitch in shutting down the Pirates on five hits in an 8-2 win.
It's a combination of a slider and curveball, Stranz said of his key pitch Monday. It breaks down and across.
He struck out 10 Phoenix hitters and allowed five hits in winning his eighth game against no losses.
Top-ranked The Dalles (25-3) will go with ace Chris Wilkins (9-0) on Wednesday when it meets second-ranked North Marion at The Dalles. Wilkins is an Oregon State recruit.
Meanwhile, freshman Blair Wilkins, Chris' younger brother, was doing the major damage Monday with his bat. The youngster slugged a pivotal two-run home run in the fourth inning to cap a four-run outburst that gave The Dalles a 4-2 lead.
Phoenix had taken a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning on a run-scoring triple by Andy Bartels and a wild pitch by Stranz that allowed Bartels to score.
Until the top of the fourth, Phoenix pitcher Drew Pierson blanked The Dalles and the Pirates appeared to be cruising toward their second state playoff win over The Dalles in two years.
The Pirates defeated the Indians, 9-4, for the 1998 championship.
Ever since that game, I had been wanting to play those guys (Pirates) again, said Sugg. It was really a close game until the fifth when we made some mistakes.
On Monday, it was the Pirates making the mistakes. Biggest was Pierson's dropped pop foul near first base that gave new life to Ryan Hodges in the sixth inning. Hodges promptly blasted a three-run home run to give The Dalles and Stranz a 7-2 cushion. Erick Harjo drove in the eighth run for The Dalles with a sacrifice fly.
You can't make those kinds of mistakes and survive against a team like this, said Phoenix coach Joe Hagler. He (Pierson) kind of overran the ball and lost track of it temporarily.
We're still in the game if we make that play. But that kid (Stranz) was tough today. He threw the ball hard, and we had a hard time reading his slider.
We couldn't tell if it was a fastball or slider until it was right on the hitters.
Blair Wilkins had a single and a home run in three at-bats.
I hit a fastball inside for the home run, said Wilkins. The first time up, I got the same fastball with a 2-and-1 count and I missed it. But not this time. I hit it hard, and it felt real good.
For a freshman to be in this position is pretty exciting, he added. I'm hitting the ball pretty hard right now. The main thing is I can't go up there and let pitchers intimidate me because I'm a freshman.
With his brother Chris scheduled to start on the mound against North Marion, Wilkins is confident.
I think we're going all the way, said the freshman. He's a confident pitcher who throws very hard.
I like our chances with these two pitchers (Stranz and Wilkins), he added. We'll ride those two all the way. It's tough to beat us because they don't give up much.
The Dalles ...........000 404 0 -- 8 7 0 Phoenix ..............200 000 0 -- 2 5 1
Stranz and Harjo; Pierson, Tester (5), Foster (6) and Hull. WP -- Stranz (8-0). LP -- Pierson. 3B -- P: Bartels. HR -- TD: B. Wilkins, Hodges.