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Rogue River’s Christian Reyes, center, is congratulated by teammates after hitting a three-run home run on Friday. - Jamie Lusch

Chieftains fall short in quarterfinals

ROGUE RIVER — In a season of clutch plays and comebacks, sixth-ranked Rogue River couldn't quite come up with the same magic Friday in losing a back-and-forth battle with No. 3 Vale in the Class 3A baseball state quarterfinals.

The Chieftains used a three-run home run from sophomore Christian Reyes to take a 5-4 lead into the sixth inning, but this time Vale was the team that wouldn't be denied as the visitors outscored Rogue River 5-1 over the final two innings to earn a 9-6 triumph.

"We easily could've won it. What it really amounted to down at the end is we just didn't make the plays," said Rogue River coach John White. "You've got to get tougher right there and we didn't. It just happens, though."

The win vaults Vale (23-4) into a semifinal matchup with Westside Christian on Tuesday, while Rogue River capped a breakthrough season with a 19-7 record.

"That's a very, very good team right there," said Vale coach Rick Yraguen of the Chieftains. "I'm just really happy to get out of here with a win."

Rogue River had advanced to the state playoffs for the first time since 2005 by winning its first league title in the same time span, and earned their first playoff win — and first quarterfinals appearance — since 1989 with Tuesday's 8-3 decision over Creswell.

"It's been awhile since we've won a playoff game at Rogue River and it was kind of a boost of confidence to see all our fans here," said Reyes, who also had an RBI single in the first inning to finish 2-for-4 with four RBIs.

The Vikings managed a 2-0 lead in the first behind a two-run double by junior Ryan Nyborg, but Rogue River roared right back when Reyes singled home Craig Lee and Jon Garcia drew a bases-loaded walk to plate Kelly White.

Vale regained a 3-2 lead in the second thanks to an RBI double by Kyle Barras, but both pitchers settled in after that. Nyborg, Vale's ace right-hander, allowed only a Garcia double over his next three innings, and Reyes escaped a bases-loaded jam in the third before sitting the Vikings down in order in the fourth.

A pair of infield singles by Nyborg and Seve Yraguen paid off for Vale in the fifth, with Mike Epperson bouncing a roller off second base for a 4-2 lead.

Rogue River responded in the fifth with a leadoff single from Brendan Schoner and a one-out single by White. Reyes followed by smacking a high fastball over the left-center fence to bring the Chieftain faithful to their feet.

"I always tell myself it just takes one pitch," said Reyes. "I know that he's a very good pitcher and probably wasn't on his 'A' game, but he left it hanging high and I took it yard."

Undaunted, Barras opened the sixth with a single and advanced to second when Schoner's relay throw from center field went awry. A wild pitch then put Barras on third before a groundout brought up Nathan Rutten, who hit a nubber between third base and shortstop and beat the throw to tie the game at 5-all.

Unfortunately for Vale, the thrills turned to chills moments later as Nyborg went down writhing in pain after fouling off a 3-2 pitch from Reyes. Nyborg's right knee appeared to twist awkwardly on the foul tip. He had to be carried off the field and later returned on crutches.

"He can't put any pressure on it and that is a bad sign," said coach Yraguen. "I don't want to speculate but I'm thinking the worst."

Instead of giving in, however, the Vikings maintained their composure to close out the game behind the relief pitching of Barras.

"He's been our leader all year and to watch him go down and have them step it up, I'm just so proud of these guys," said the Vale coach.

Rogue River had a chance to tie the game in the bottom of the sixth after Garcia reached on a leadoff single, but pinch-hitter Cody Worthington grounded into a double play to Rory Churchill at second base. Barras then struck out pinch-hitter Brian Stinchcomb.

"We thought about (bunting) but I didn't feel comfortable getting a bunt down," said coach White. "The kids I had coming up right there, the last time either one of them had bunted they'd popped the ball up so I felt like taking our chances swinging it."

Vale went the other way in the seventh after Churchill was hit by a pitch to open the frame. Gannon Whisenhunt dropped down a sacrifice bunt to move over his teammate and No. 9 hitter David Lemer reached out to poke an RBI single up the middle. After an error by Lee at shortstop, Reyes left a pitch up and Caleb Zemmer blasted it off the left field fence for a two-run double and 8-5 lead.

"I tried to keep the ball low because my arm's usually hanging by that time in the game, but I hung it and they ripped it," said Reyes, who threw a career-high 152 pitches and was relieved by Lee following the double.

A wild pitch put Zemmer on third and Rutten walked before another run scored when catcher Kiefer Garwood's throw on an attempted steal of second base ricocheted into center field.

"I thought if we could've kept it within that one run or two that we had a real good shot because we had the top of order coming up," said coach White, "but when it got to three and four it just got to be too much."

Kelly White plated Schoner on a fielder's choice in the bottom of the seventh but the hosts couldn't mount more of a rally.

Vale 210 011 4 — 9 13 2

Rogue River 200 030 1 — 6 8 3

Nyborg, Barras (6) and Rutten; Reyes, Lee (7) and Garwood. W — Barras (6-2). L — Reyes (8-3). 2B — V: Nyborg, Barras, Zemmer; RR: Garcia. HR — RR: Reyes.

Reach reporter Kris Henry at 776-4488, or e-mail khenry@mailtribune.com

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