South ices Comets to open Crater tourney
CENTRAL POINT — As much as possible, South Medford senior Jace Miller said the Panthers’ plan for every baseball game is to be as aggressive as possible to put opponents on their heels from the get-go.
Consider that mission accomplished Tuesday, as South Medford scored three runs and batted through the order in the first inning to rattle Crater en route to a 5-2 victory in the first game of the 15th annual Crater Spring Break Tournament at Anhorn Field.
“We were just hunting our pitch, getting on base and making them make plays,” said Miller, who singled in the first inning and scored his team’s first run. “We’re trying to win every inning and trying to have everybody get as many ABs as possible.”
Conversely, it took the Comets three innings to get each player in the lineup an at-bat as South Medford sophomore Kyle Cope kept them off-balance throughout. Cope sat down the first 13 batters he faced in order — striking out five in the process — before Hayden Kindreich drew a one-out walk in the fifth inning.
“Kyle Cope came out and did his job,” said Miller, who supplied a pair of stellar plays at shortstop to support the right-hander.
“He’s a young guy but I’m really, really proud of him stepping up in a varsity role and shoving it.”
With a 3-0 lead built on a Crater error and two-run double by Kaleb Long before he ever reached the mound, Cope pitched well with the lead. Mixing pitches and constantly being around the plate to avoid walks — he had only one free pass in six innings against seven strikeouts overall — the sophomore was everything South coach Josh Moody needed him to be Tuesday.
“I told him going into this ballgame that he’s got to have three pitches for strikes,” said Moody, “and he executed really well. He was able to get ahead and trusted his defense. When he’s got three pitches for strikes, he can do a good job of keeping hitters off-balance, and it makes his fastball better when he can throw that cutter and slider and changeup for a strike.”
About the only aspect of his effort that Cope wasn’t in control of on the mound Tuesday was his hat, which routinely flew to the ground as he delivered pitch after pitch.
“I told him we’re going to bring the stapler out here for the next game if he doesn’t make an adjustment,” said Moody with a laugh. “It’s a little easier to watch when he’s perfect through four and has a no-hitter through five.”
It also didn’t hurt Cope and the Panthers that the Comets (2-1) seemed a little shell-shocked by the way Tuesday’s game started.
“We were kind of on our heels, especially at the plate, and just not aggressive and letting too many fastballs go by,” said Crater coach Jay Campbell. “We made a lot of errors that first inning and kind of just opened up the door for them to score three runs. We settled in a little bit after that, but anytime you walk 10 and hit one, you’re not going to win a game.”
A leadoff triple in the sixth inning by Miller and ensuing groundout to the right side of the infield by Tanner Douglas put the Panthers (2-0) ahead 4-0 before Crater finally managed to get something going in the bottom half of the inning.
Quay Lundeen dribbled a flare toward second base and was able to beat out the throw to first base by a hard-charging Cameron Sewell. Ryan Hill followed with a liner to left field that just cleared the head of drawn-in third baseman Carson Joe, and suddenly the Comets were in business against Cope.
After coming up short in two at-bats, Crater finally broke through with a two-run double to right-center by senior Caleb Randolph to make it 4-2 before Cope recorded his final strikeout to halt the threat.
“The last couple innings we did a little bit better job at the plate and got some stuff going,” said Campbell, “but it was too little too late.”
South Medford got a run back in the seventh when pinch-hitter Triston Mallari was ruled safe on an interference call against relief pitcher Kayden Scapero following a grounder to first base and eventual collision at the bag. Miller advanced Mallari on a one-out double and, after Tanner Douglas was intentionally walked to load the bases, junior Elijah Havey came through with an RBI single.
Miller, however, injured his hamstring on the move from second to third base and had to be replaced by Cooper Mitchell, who was thrown out at home plate following a short flyout to Hill at shortstop for an inning-ending double play.
Josiah Hearne produced a two-out single against Joe during a relief effort in the seventh but the senior got a game-ending comebacker to seal the victory.
Miller finished 3-for-4 with two runs to pace South, which stranded 15 baserunners overall — nine in scoring position.
“They gave us 25 free 90s (bases) in a seven-inning game and we just flat-out did not execute when we needed to,” Moody said of the missed opportunities. “Our offense needs to be a lot better than that if we want to be competitive this year.”
South Medford did a better job of production in an 11-0, six-inning win over Corvallis to wrap up Day 1, with Douglas breaking a scoreless tie in the third inning with an opposite-field three-run home run.
Douglas and Sewell also combined on a no-hitter, with Douglas striking out 12 in five innings and Sewell fanning two in his one inning of relief.
Douglas finished 2-for-3 with five RBIs, Sewell was 2-for-3 with three runs and two RBIs and Cope added a two-run double. Joe had a double and triple in going 3-for-4 and Long added an RBI double.
The Crater Spring Break Tournament runs through Thursday.
Cope, Joe (7) and Long; Rapp, Stouder (4), Scapero (6) and Lundeen. W — Cope (1-0). L — Rapp (0-1). S — Joe (1). 2B — SM: Long, Miller; C: Randolph. 3B — SM: Miller.
Douglas, Sewell (6) and Havey; Paventy, McGowen (3), Holpuch (4) and Compton. W — Douglas (1-0). L — Paventy. 2B — SM: Sewell, Joe, Long, Cope 2. 3B — SM: Joe. HR — Douglas (1).
GRANTS PASS 11, WILLAMETTE 11, 5 inn.: At Grants Pass, Grants Pass and Willamette combined to score 18 runs in the first two innings but played to a tie after the game was halted due to a tournament time limit.
Grants Pass (2-1-1) led 4-0 after the top of the first, then saw Willamette (1-1-1) score eight in the bottom half of the inning to take an 8-4 lead. The Cavemen reclaimed the lead with a five-run top of the second, only to see the Wolverines tie it with a run in the bottom half of the inning.
Grants Pass designated hitter Kain Robinson finished 2-for-4 with two runs and four RBIs, while Taholo Vainuku-Johnson was 2-for-3 with two runs and three RBIs. Mason Montejano also had a pair of RBIs while going 2-for-3.
Troy Osborne and Ari Kantola each also plated a run for the Cavemen.
Vainuku-Johnson, Carnes (5), Tunick (5) and Osborne; Grantom, Butler (4), Sandow (5) and Bushnell. 2B — W: Cox, Grantom. HR — W: Prescott.
ASHLAND 3, BARLOW 2: At Ashland, Ashland freshman Freeman Rountree delivered a game-winning squeeze bunt to cap the Grizzlies’ comeback win over Class 6A Barlow in the Crater Spring Break Tournament at North Mountain Park.
Ashland (4-0), which has now won by a single run in its last three games, trailed 1-0 after the top of the first but tied the game in the bottom of the fourth on an RBI by Mateo Moore.
Ashland’s Ben Bleicker tied the game at 2-all in the bottom of the seventh on an RBI single. He then scored the winning run on Rountree’s bunt.
Nate Shrader earned the win in relief with 1 2/3 scoreless innings. Jackson Rosenthal went the first 5 1/3 innings, allowing four hits and one earned run while striking out four.
Gabe Brabec went 2-for-3 for the Grizzlies, who saw Tuesday’s other tournament game against Grants Pass rescheduled to April 20.
Hamilton, Simoneau (6) and Pilster, Lopez (6); Rosenthal, Na. Shrader (6) and Wright. W — Na. Shrader (1-0). L — Simoneau.
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