Crater charges into 5A title game
CENTRAL POINT — The moment wasn’t too big for Larson Kindreich in the Class 5A baseball state semifinals Tuesday.
The Crater lanky junior left-hander used his offspeed pitches effectively and was dynamic at the plate as the Comets took advantage of mistake prone Crescent Valley to post a 9-5 victory at Mel Anhorn Field.
Crater returns to the state championship game for the first time since winning the 2007 title. The second-seeded Comets (26-4) will face Churchill, a 5-4 winner in 11 innings over Wilsonville in the other semifinal, at 10 a.m. Saturday at Volcanoes Stadium in Keizer. Crescent Valley, the Mid-Willamette Conference champion, completes the season at 25-4.
Crater finished tied for first with top-seeded Churchill (27-3) in the Midwestern League but dropped 2-of-3 to the Lancers during the regular season. The Comets’ last state championship came against Churchill, when the Lancers coincidentally were ranked No. 1.
Kindreich limited the potent Raiders to five hits, struck out 10, walked one and hit one batter in an 84-pitch, 5⅓-inning performance. Crescent Valley hit the ball hard at times but the 6-foot-3 Comet hurler ended each of the first five innings with a strikeout.
“That kid (Kindreich) was the best we’ve seen in Oregon,” said Crescent Valley coach Ryan Starwalt. “His curveball was better than we’re used to. When we hit his fastball, we hit it a long way.”
Kindreich was pulled after surrendering a 340-foot home run to left field to freshman Taylor Holder with one out in the sixth inning. More important, it was Kindreich’s 84th pitch which keeps him under the 85-pitch limit so he can start the title game Saturday.
“I don’t ever want to come out of a game,” said Kindreich, who understood the significance of the pitch count. “We have a good pitching staff. All our pitchers can get the job done.”
Crater coach Jay Campbell summoned senior right-hander Sebasten Boivin, who surrendered four hits and one run before ending the game when Holder took a called third strike.
“We knew they would be a competitive team and battle us to the end,” said Campbell. “(Kindreich) kept us in the game. He made some big pitches in spots. He was able to bear down when they had guys in scoring position. And he’s done that all year long.”
”That was the whole plan to keep him under 85 on the pitch count so we would have him for Saturday,” Campbell continued. “I had all the confidence in Boivin to get the job done.”
The 17-year-old Kindreich went 2-for-5 scored three runs and had two RBIs. He reached base in four of his five at bats.
The Comets took advantage of some shaky fielding by the Raiders, who made five errors, to take command early. Only four of the Crater runs were earned.
Kindreich opened the first with a routine ground ball that second baseman James Chacon booted and Jake Cartwright followed with a bunt single. Kindreich and Cartwright had moved to second and third after two strikeouts, then Jace Godley hit a smash down the third base line that knocked in the Comets’ first two runs.
Godley finished with three of Crater’s nine hits.
“As soon as I saw a fastball, I wasn’t letting it get by,” said Godley, whose two-run single came on pitcher Eric Seevers’ first offering. “I felt good not only because I got a hit but I got the job done for my teammates.”
Then Crescent Valley experienced a nightmarish bottom of the second inning.
Jake Ireland led off with a high fly ball to right that outfielder Connor Spevacek dropped after going a long distance. Ireland, who was running hard off contact, ended up at third and then scored on an overthrow on the play.
Hunter Grant, the No. 8 hitter, hit a line drive single and was sacrificed to second. On a 1-1 pitch, Kindreich connected for a towering home run to right-center to give the Comets a 5-0 lead.
“I was just looking for a pitch to hit hard when he threw me a fastball,” said Kindreich, about his second home run of the season. “I put a good swing on it and it felt really good.”
Crater sent 12 batters to the plate and scored six runs in the second on two hits, three errors, three walks and two hit batters.
“Our team was in a light mood prior to the game and I didn’t think we would come out nervous,” said Starwalt. “Our defense wasn’t anything we’ve seen before. That’s a big hole to dig.”
Campbell not only had praise for Kindreich but for the entire squad.
“Up and down the lineup we seem to have a different guy come through every night.” said Campbell. “They made a few errors that are uncharacteristic but we were able to capitalize. You never know how kids will respond.”
Luckily for Crater, Kindreich responded just fine.
Seevers, Killen (2), Knight (3) and Knight, Leid (3); Kindreich, Boivin (6) and Bartlett. W — Kindreich (11-1). L — Seevers (9-3). 2B — CV: Knight; C: Kindreich. HR — CV: Holder; C: Kindreich (2).
Reach reporter Frank Silow at 541-776-4480 or email@example.com