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Crater has just enough to edge Vikes

CENTRAL POINT - It was the worst of times for Ryan Gipson. And it was the best of times.

The Crater High shortstop committed four errors and was twice thrown out on the basepaths during Tuesday's opening-round state playoff game against Forest Grove.

But Gipson also had two hits and knocked in all three of Crater's runs as the Comets edged the Vikings, 3-2, at sun-drenched Anhorn Field.

The victory propels the defending state champion Comets, 21-6, into the second round at Reynolds on Friday. Game time will be announced later in the week.

"It just wasn't my day defensively," Gipson said. "I'm just glad we won and that I was able to help the team out with my bat."

Gipson hit an RBI double in the first inning that Forest Grove right fielder Mark Tveit lost in the sun. One inning later, he delivered a two-run single, and that was just enough offense to boost the Comets and winning pitcher Derek Petersen to the victory.

Forest Grove had plenty of chances to put more runs on the board - the Vikings totaled nine hits and left 10 runners on base - but Crater repeatedly came through with key outs to advance to the second round of the playoffs for the sixth straight year.

Forest Grove, which suffered a 7-1 loss to Crater in the state quarterfinals last season, finished with a 19-7 record.

"We just couldn't get the big hit at crunch time," Forest Grove coach Joe Baumgartner said. "We kept getting guys on base and stranding them. It was very frustrating."

The Vikings had a great opportunity to tie or win the game in the top of the seventh after Julio McDaniel and Keith Downing reached base on the third and fourth of Gipson's miscues.

But with two outs and two on, Crater center fielder Kenny Strate ran down a long flyball off the bat of Anthony Shafer that ended the game.

"I got a good jump on it and ran it down, but the wind carried it a little more than I expected," said the speedy Strate, who is considered one of the top outfielders in the state. "It had me scared there for a second."

Crater coach Chuck Dominiak had no doubts that Strate would make the running, over-the-shoulder catch.

"He's been doing that for us for four years," Dominiak said. "I'm not sure anyone else in this stadium would have caught up to that ball, but Kenny made it look easy."

Trailing 3-0 after two innings, Forest Grove cut its deficit to 3-1 in the third when McDaniel doubled and losing pitcher Derrick Jones followed with an RBI single. But any chance for a big inning quickly evaporated when Keith Downing hit into a 6-4-3 double play.

In the fourth, Ricky Gonzales and Shafer started the inning with singles and Treit followed with a sacrifice, setting the table for a big inning. But Petersen - the Crater pitcher - got designated hitter Joey Holscher to pop up to shortstop and then induced Robbie Ward into an inning-ending groundout.

Forest Grove scored its other run in the fifth on an RBI single by Gonzales, but the Vikings were again deprived of extra runs when Casey Voorhies was thrown out at the plate. Voorhies, attempting to score from third base on a grounder to second, made it home ahead of the tag but missed the plate and was subsequently tagged out by Comets catcher Jared Maddocks.

"I blocked the plate and made him go around me," Maddocks said. "I knew he missed it and just followed him around and tagged him."

Jones, a junior right-hander, held Crater to five hits and all three runs he allowed were unearned.

"We didn't give him any help in the early innings, but he got tougher as the game went on," Baumgartner said.

Petersen, meanwhile, yielded nine hits while striking out two and walking none.

The win was the sixth straight in postseason play for the Comets.

"We've got a lot of new faces in our lineup compared to last season and I think we came out a little jittery today," Dominiak said. "Getting that first playoff win under our belt should really help the young kids. Now maybe we can just relax and play."

Forest Grove........................................ 001 010 0 - 2 9 5Crater.................................................... 120 000 0 - 2 6 4

Jones and Thomas; Petersen and Maddocks. W - Petersen (9-3). - Jones (5-4). 2B - FG: McDaniel, Voorhies; C - Gipson.