Crater’s Chris Thomas improves to 11-0 with a dominating performance in the Class 5A quarterfinals against West Albany.

Thomas pitches gem for Crater

CENTRAL POINT — Crater pitcher Chris Thomas threw "the look" almost as well as he threw a baseball Friday.

Twice he fired it at coach Jay Campbell.

First, in their morning PE class, when Campbell wanted to know if Thomas could start the Comets' Class 5A quarterfinal playoff game that afternoon against West Albany.

Then, in the seventh inning of said game, Thomas had a no-hitter working and Campbell considered relieving him.

"It was the same look," Campbell laughed after the Comets had finished off a 6-1 victory at Anhorn Field. "I asked if he wanted to finish. I smiled at him and he smiled back. I kind of giggled and said, 'OK, let's get these guys.'"

Thomas, a workhorse whom third-ranked Crater plans on riding throughout the playoffs, came within one out of the no-hitter. He then allowed a double and a triple in successive at-bats before notching his 10th strikeout to end the contest.

Because of Thomas' brilliance, the Comets (22-5-1) are in the semifinals. They visit No. 10 Pendleton, a 7-5 winner over No. 4 North Eugene, on Tuesday.

West Albany coach Don Lien was effusive in lauding the senior right-hander. You can wait on either a fastball or curveball from most pitchers, Lien said, depending on their weakness.

"But that sum buck could hit with anything at any time," he marveled. "That was a whole different level from what we've seen before."

And the eighth-ranked Bulldogs can hit, he emphasized, to the tune of a .370 team average.

The postseason schedule sets up for Crater to start Thomas, who improved to 11-0, every game. He pitched into the seventh inning Tuesday in a win over Hermiston, so coming back after only two days rest was a concern.

"I worked real hard to get my arm ready for today," said Thomas.

Between starts, he iced it as much as possible and drank as much water as he could stand. He also ran two miles Wednesday.

He knows how the bracket sets up and what's expected of him.

"That's been my plan all season," said Thomas. "Every game, I plan on being there to pitch."

He now has three days of rest before his next assignment and would have another three days if Crater advances to the state title game.

"Today was the big question," said Campbell. "But he's a gutsy kid. He always wants the ball. That's what you want from your ace."

Campbell had Bruce Sanford warmed up for the seventh inning before Thomas' expression made it clear it was his game.

Thomas was aware of the no-no when he began the seventh with a strikeout and a line out.

"I was just thinking, one more guy, that's all I'm asking," said Thomas. "One more time. But it didn't happen. I just have to go for it next time."

He threw a curveball low and away to Reese Miller, but Miller found it and sent it over right fielder Jesse Warren's head.

"I don't know if he (Miller) was expecting it or not," said Thomas. "He just sat back and hit it. Props to him."

Throughout the game, Thomas spotted his pitches superbly, setting up his fastball with a knee-buckling change-up and a curveball that, while not his best, proved more than adequate.

Thomas faced the minimum number of batters through the first 32/3 innings, then issued his only walk. He responded by setting down the next nine hitters before Miller's hit. He threw 84 pitches.

Crater staked Thomas to an early lead, scoring twice in the first inning on an RBI double by Josh Surgeon and an RBI single by Zach Boskovich.

It wasn't until the fifth inning, however, when the Comets scored three runs to make it 6-0, that they took control. Cooper Schmelzer's two-run single and Boskovich's RBI double accounted for the runs.

Boskovich continued his hot hitting, going 3-for-3. He had two hits, including a home run, Tuesday.

Crater had seven hits, a low number by its standards.

"We came out a little on our front foot with a slower pitcher today," said Boskovich. "But their team made plays and got it done."

Crater, which had five stolen bases, got two runs each from Surgeon and Charlie Reina.

West Albany 000 000 1 — 1 2 1

Crater 201 030 x — 6 7 2

A. Edwards, Fraser (3), Murphy (5) and Sanberg; Thomas and Reina. W — Thomas (11-0). L — A. Edwards. 2B — WA: Miller; C: Surgeon, Boskovich 2. 3B — WA: Dodge.

Reach sports editor Tim Trower at 776-4479, or e-mail

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