Decade later, Crater back in title game
Jay Campbell has a “How-to-Win-a-State-Championship” blueprint.
The Crater baseball coach just needs to dust off the itinerary he’s stored since 2007, when the Comets last took home the title.
He wouldn’t dare ignore the script.
“It’s baseball,” said Crater’s 12th-year coach. “It’s all superstitious.”
No. 2-ranked Crater (26-4) faces Midwestern League rival and top-seeded Churchill (27-3) of Eugene for the Class 5A championship at 10 a.m. Saturday at Volcanoes Stadium in Keizer.
Campbell saved his notes from 10 years ago — when the No. 3 Comets defeated No. 6 Churchill, 2-1, for the championship — just for this occasion.
“I did keep that in hopes we would need it,” said Campbell. “I was hoping it wouldn’t be 10 years. Nonetheless, here we are.”
The itinerary he pulled includes where the Comets will stop on their trip north, where they’re eating, what times, meeting agenda’s and practice information.
Ten years ago, the game was on June 4.
“I remember because it was one of my daughter’s birthdays,” he said.
This year, it’s June 3.
“There are a lot of similarities,” said Campbell.
Crater advanced to the championship with a relatively comfortable, 9-5 victory over Crescent Valley of Corvallis in the semifinals on Tuesday. The Comets led 8-0 after two innings.
Conversely, Churchill needed 11 innings and yeoman’s work from ace pitcher Brock Townsend — which, as a result, will limit him Saturday — to defeat Wilsonville, 5-4.
Crater and Churchill faced each other three times during the league season, with Churchill winning the first two games, 1-0 and 12-2, before Crater claimed the nightcap of an April 22 doubleheader, 13-2.
If that isn’t enough to foster familiarity, the teams have bonded in summer ball the past two years. During a tournament in Eugene, Crater’s players were housed by their Churchill counterparts, while Campbell stayed with Lancers coach Kenny Niles and his family.
“I’m good friends with their coach and we talk quite often,” said Campbell.
“There aren’t a lot secrets between the two teams,” he added.
Going into the season, both sides figured they’d be among the best in the state.
“The kids know that,” said Campbell. “They have a lot of respect for Churchill, and I’m thinking it’d be a mutual feeling if you asked the Churchill kids. There’s a lot of respect for both programs.”
The finals matchup isn’t a huge surprise, he added.
Campbell spoke of the possibility of facing Churchill well before the playoffs began. He even talked to the Comets about the 2007 title, extolling the benefits of doing all the little things correctly and being confident in the process.
That game, said Campbell, “took about 85 minutes and was one of the fastest games I’ve ever been a part of.”
“The kids know the history and what’s at stake,” he said. “It’s fun to see them excited. They’ve worked really hard. It’s probably the hardest working team in practice I’ve ever had.”
Unlike Churchill, which will have Townsend for no more than 25 pitches because he threw 110 on Tuesday, Crater has all of its pitchers available.
Crater’s Larson Kindreich and Townsend hooked up in a beauty of a duel in Churchill’s 1-0 win April 18.
In Tuesday’s victory over Crescent Valley, Kindreich pitched 5⅓ innings, allowed five hits, struck out 10, walked one and hit a batter. He threw 84 pitches. By staying at or below 85, he’s fully eligible to pitch Saturday.
“That was the idea all along,” said Campbell, “but you never know how that will play out.”
Churchill’s pitching “probably didn’t go as planned,” he said, referring to Townsend being used to the max in order to get by Wilsonville.
While Crater is in a good position with its pitching, Campbell isn’t saying whether Kindreich or Sebasten Boivin will start.
A lot will depend on how Kindreich feels on game day, he said.
Kindreich is 11-1 with a 0.90 ERA. He’s struck out 116 batters in 70⅓ innings. Boivin is 7-1 with an ERA of 1.57. He also has a save.
As for Churchill, it will go with Jose Chavez, and the Comets aren’t likely to take him lightly. Chavez ended Crater’s season in the quarterfinals last year, 7-5, and got the win in the 12-2 April contest.
He entered the postseason unbeaten, with a 0.40 ERA, and was chosen the MWL player of the year. Townsend was pitcher of the year.
“He’s a really good pitcher,” said Campbell. “He’s, like, 83 mph (on his fastball) with good off-speed stuff. He keeps the ball outside and mixes his pitches well. He has good velocity when he needs it.”
He’ll face a Crater team with a .358 batting average, led by Sean Bartlett and Jace Godley. Bartlett is hitting .489, with 28 RBIs and 34 runs, while the versatile Godley is at .470, with 32 RBIs, 29 runs, five home runs, four triples and seven doubles.
Jake Cartwright (.366, 30 runs), Boivin (.364, three homers, 25 RBIs, 27 runs) and Kindreich (.359, 27 RBIs, 42 runs) also wield big bats.
“Everyone had it in the backs of their minds that we’d probably run into them (Lancers),” said Campbell. “We thought two of the best teams would come from our league, and that’s how it played out.”
— Reach sports editor Tim Trower at 541-776-4479 or firstname.lastname@example.org