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Crater rallies to beat Oregon City

CENTRAL POINT - Try to compare the 2001 Crater baseball team to the Class 4A championship team of 2000.

Just try.

It's futile.

The champs had pitching, power, a veteran line-up, you name it.

The kids of 2001?

Don't bother.

Don't try to explain the playoff odyssey of 2001 - the parade just rolls on.

Crater rallied from two three-run deficits, Monday afternoon to overtake No. — Oregon City, 9-8, in quarterfinal at Anhorn Field.

"Our backs have been to the wall all season, but we know how to compete until the last out," said junior catcher Jared Maddocks, whose two-run home run in the bottom of the sixth decided the matter.

"When you play your hearts out, good things happen."

The next good thing is another home game on Wednesday when the Comets (23-6) play host to Barlow (18-11-1) in semifinals. The time will be announced today.

Barlow defeated Jesuit, 6-1, on Monday.

As unlikely as it seemed a few weeks ago or even in the middle of the second inning when Crater committed three errors and fell behind 4-1, the Comets are one win away from another trip to Volcano Stadium in Keizer and a chance to defend their state title.

Oregon City had won 26 of 28 games, losing only a pair of tight Three Rivers League games to West Linn (5-4) and Lakeridge (5-3). But the Pioneers have a history of stumbling at Anhorn Field, losing 3-2 in 1998 and 13-3 in 1999.

"These kids aren't impressed by anybody," Crater coach Chuck Dominiak said. "You look at 26-2 and that's a pretty good record. But we didn't dwell on it. If we would've made a couple of defensive plays, it wouldn't have been close."

Junior right-hander Derek Petersen (12-3) tossed the final four innings to notch his fourth straight playoff win, including a Southern Oregon Conference playoff win against North Medford.

But the pieces didn't fall into place until the final three innings.

After Kenny Strate scored on passed ball to give the Comets a 1-0 lead in the first inning, Oregon City sent 10 batters to the plate in the second.

Left-hander Chris Pettegrew allowed just two hits, but walked two and hit a batter, while second baseman Craig Mulder fumbled a pair of ground balls with two out. Nonetheless, the Pioneers racked up four runs after recording two outs.

The Comets shrugged off the pratfall and snapped back in the bottom of the frame for three runs of their own.

Strate drove in one run then Frank Drake scored from third when Pioneer catcher Justin Bugni skipped a throw into center field when Strate stole second base. He advanced to third and scored on Ryan Gipson's infield hit.

But three pitches into the third inning, Oregon City retook the lead when shortstop Tony Rodriguez bashed a wind-aided 360-foot home run over the right-center field fence. In the fourth inning, Aaron Davis singled in one run and Ron Morey launched a sacrifice-fly to center field to extend the Pioneers' advantage to 7-4.

The Comets had the Three Rivers League runners-up right where they wanted.

"They weren't going to go down easy," Maddocks said. "But the fifth, sixth and seventh innings are ours."

Morey, who relieved Oregon City starter Jonah Nickerson in the third inning, retired seven straight before allowing a one-out walk to Maddocks. Petersen then grounded into a force play for the second out.

That set the stage for David Sills, who had struck out with runners at second and third in the first inning and then had a perfectly-executed sacrifice bunt go for naught in the third inning.

Sills drilled a double to the right-field gap that scored Petersen and then raced home on Levi Wisdom's base hit to right.

The Comets were back in business, trailing 7-6.

"We had the opportunities for more runs in the second and third innings," Oregon City coach J.J. Winkler said. "We had the opportunity to score 11 or 12 runs today.

"But they're always a bunch of scrappers. They're always decent on the mound and throw strikes. There's nobody throwing 85 mph, but how many times did they throw a 3-0 curve for a strike. That shows they're mentally tough."

The Pioneers erred just once in the first five innings, but Rodriguez had two throwing errors that opened the door for three runs and gave the Comets the lead for good in the sixth.

Rodriguez's throw to first pulled Davis off the bag, giving Drake life with one out. Then Morey walked Strate. Ryan Gipson's grounder to Rodriguez had the looks of an inning-end double play. But his throw to second sailed into the Oregon City bullpen area, allowing pinch-runner Andrew Norum to tie it.

Strate tried to make it all the way from first, but Davis retrieved the ball and threw to Bugni, who tagged Strate.

With Gipson at second, Maddocks strolled to the plate.

"Maddocks was due to hit something hard," Dominiak said. "Sometimes he tries too hard, but sooner or later he was going to make something happen."

Maddocks fouled off a curveball then socked Morey's fastball into the teeth of persistent gale and over the left-field fence.

"He came back with an outside fastball and I made him pay for it," Maddocks said. "I knew I got a good piece of it and it was going over the left fielder's head. But I didn't know if it would go over the fence."

Oregon City still had some pop in its bats.

Bugni followed a walk with a ground-rule double to right-center.

But Petersen got Chris Campbell to pop out to Mulder for the first out. The Pioneers narrowed the gap on Josh Armstrong's sacrifice fly to Strate. Then Nic Chapin hit a lazy foul down the third-base line that Drake squeezed for the final out.

"I thought it was going farther than it did, but I caught up to it," Drake said. "I was thinking, 'I've got to catch this thing.' "

Now only the Barlow Bruins, the Mount Hood Conference's No. 2 team, stand between Crater and the state finals.

"I would've never dreamed we'd be 23-6 right now," Dominiak said. "What it shows is a lot of team unity and that we're peaking at the right time."

Oregon City...........................................041 200 — - 8 7 3Crater.....................................................130 023 x - 9 7 4

Nickerson, Morey (3), Concannon (6) and Bugni; Pettegrew, Petersen (4) and Maddocks. W - Petersen (12-3). L - Morey (9-1). 2B - OC: Bugni, C: Silla. HR: OC: Rodriguez. C: Maddocks (8)

Reach reporter Greg Stiles at 776-4483, or e-mail