Crater sweeps past South
CENTRAL POINT - If Crater Comet coach Chuck Dominiak has it his way, the Southern Oregon Conference baseball title will come down to his Comets and the North Medford Black Tornado again.
The defending state champions, behind strong pitching from Derek Peterson and Chris Pettegrew, swept South Medford right out of sole possession of first place in the SOC.
Crater swept South, 6-3 and 2-1 in eight innings, Saturday at Anhorn Field.
With the two victories, Crater (18-5, 8-4 SOC) put itself in a tie for first with South Medford, Ashland and North Medford in the SOC. The SOC season concludes next week, with Crater meeting the Tornado for a doubleheader at Miles Field.
"We're dang close to where we were last year," Dominiak said.
South (11-11, 8-4) jumped on the board early with a run in the first inning of the first game. Panther ace Matt Skundrick walked with two outs, and reached second on a single by David Henneman. Skundrick then score on an error by shortstop Ryan Gipson to make it 1-0.
Crater answered that score immediately with a couple of runs of its own in the first. Gipson made up for his error by getting a clean single to right. Jared Maddocks then reached on an error, and Pettegrew drove him in with a single.
After a walk to Peterson to load the bases, David Sills hit a sacrifice fly that scored Shayne Lumpkin, who pinch ran for Maddocks.
Skundrick struggled early with Crater's hitters, giving up another run in the bottom of the second, before seemingly settling down till the fourth inning.
"I just wasn't settled, didn't develop the rhythm that I needed to have," Skundrick said. "I knew Crater would come out strong, so I wasn't surprised. They came out and played their butts off."
The bottom of the fourth inning proved to do in Skundrick and the Panthers.
Craig Mulder got to second on a throwing error to lead off the inning and Brian Overstake followed with an infield single. Frank Drake advanced them both with a ground-out to first.
Gipson, who finished the game 3-for-3, then singled to left to drive in Mulder. Overstake later stole home on a double steal attempt to make it 5-2.
South's highlight came in the top of the fifth, when catcher Matt Smith led things off with a solo homer over the 340-foot mark in left field.
Crater wrapped up the game in the bottom of the sixth, scoring their sixth run and making a winner out of Peterson, who went the distance.
"Peterson pitched great today," said Dominiak. "At first he was getting behind on almost every batter, but somehow got himself out of it."
Game 2 proved to be quite a chess match between South pitcher Clint Rodreick and Pettegrew, with an unlikely twist giving the Comet the edge.
The Panthers struck first in the top of the third as Ryan Norris walked, and was awarded second on a balk by Pettegrew. After Rodreick struck out, Ryan Heil walked and, with two outs, Skundrick was intentionally walked to get to Henneman. Henneman hit a weak roller between first and the mound, scoring Norris, but Skundrick was caught in a run-down to end the inning.
Rodreick continued to dominate the Comets till the bottom of the fourth, when Peterson hit a single to right and Lumpkin slid under Smith's tag to tie the game, 1-1.
Neither team did much else from that point, trading goose eggs.
In the top of the seventh, however, Pettegrew was pulled in favor of Peterson.
"We needed a momentum change," Dominiak said. "Derek pitched well in the first game, so we brought him in to get through the inning."
Crater didn't do much to get the winning run across in the bottom of the seventh, and the two teams found themselves heading to extra innings.
In an uncommon move, Dominiak then brought Pettegrew back in for the top of the eighth, and the junior easily retired the side.
"I knew I was going to come back in," said Pettegrew. "Coach (Dominiak) just told me that I needed to take a break and get my focus back."
And focus is exactly what Pettegrew found. After struggling at the plate for most of the day, he singled in the winning run in the bottom of the eighth.
"It felt good," said Pettegrew. "I had been struggling, so it was good that I was able to help out."
With things clicking toward the end of the season, the Comets are looking to make another run at the state playoffs.
"Our juniors from last year that have the experience are leading us," said Dominiak. "We try to do what we can to play our best baseball. Today shows why this league is so tough when it comes to the state playoffs."
South Medford......................................100 101 0 - — 6 2Crater......................................................210 201x - 6 9 2
Skundrick and Smith; Peterson and Maddocks. W - Peterson (7-2). L - Skundrick. HR - SM: Smith.
South Medford....................................001 000 00 - — 5 3Crater...................................................000 100 01 - 2 8 1
Rodreick and Smith; Pettegrew, Peterson (7), Pettegrew (8) and Maddocks. W - Pettegrew (6-2). L - Rodreick. 2B - C: Maddocks.