When pressed for an answer, Crater’s baseball team hasn’t wasted time in providing one all season for head coach Jay Campbell.
It was that way again Wednesday after the Comets fell behind early against visiting La Salle Prep but didn’t let that faze them in securing an 11-5 triumph to open the Class 5A state playoffs at Anhorn Field in Central Point.
After La Salle (14-14) scored one run in the top of the first inning, Crater (22-6) roared right back with three runs in the bottom half of the frame and then essentially put the contest out of reach with a seven-run surge in the second inning.
Leading the charge for the Comets were seniors Nick Bastendorff (2-for-2, two runs, one RBI), Larson Kindreich (3-for-5, two runs) and Ryan Kulpa (3-for-3, three runs, two RBIs) and sophomore Trever Davis (three RBIs).
“We have a good mix of players and a good balance,” said Campbell, whose team finished as state runner-up last year but had to replace nine seniors this season. “It was good to see them answer and kind of get the jitters out of the way here in the playoffs.”
With the win, Crater advances to face Sandy (21-7) in Friday’s second round. Weather permitting, game time is scheduled for 4 p.m. at Anhorn Field. Sandy held off Hood River Valley for a 7-6 win Wednesday.
La Salle senior Matt Niebergall hit a double on the first pitch he saw from Crater starter Jacob Memmott and eventually scored to get the Falcons off to a good start.
Undaunted, the Comets tied the game in the bottom of the first almost instantly in unconventional fashion. Leadoff batter Kulpa singled and wound up scoring when an errant pickoff attempt at first base also resulted in a second throwing error after La Salle threw wide of third base in an effort to nab Kulpa as he raced around the bases.
Kindreich, Bastendorff and fellow senior Trae Frodge followed with singles to make it 2-1, and Bastendorff later scored on a fielder’s choice groundout by junior Blake Hollingsworth for a 3-1 cushion.
“That was huge,” said Campbell of the instant response. “It’s playoff time and everything you do is magnified so our kids being able to answer with three runs in the bottom half really set the tone for the rest of the game.”
Sophomore Andy Lacey kick-started the second-inning surge with a leadoff double and, after Kulpa walked, Kindreich singled to load the bases. Bastendorff followed with an RBI single and another run scored on an error following Frodge’s misplayed grounder to make it 5-1.
Davis then supplied a two-run single, with another run scoring on wild pitch before Ike Gilliland’s sacrifice fly and another Kulpa single pushed the Comets’ lead to an insurmountable 10-1.
“We kind of leaned on those older guys that were in the state championship game last year for leadership today and they all came through,” said Campbell. “You never know how kids are going to act in a playoff situation where it’s a win or be done deal, so it was good for our older guys to show some leadership and our younger guys were obviously able to perform for us, too.”
Memmott, a sophomore right-hander, allowed five hits and three runs with two strikeouts before being relieved by junior Ethan Scott, who struck out four and allowed two hits in 2?1/3 innings of relief. Hollingsworth finished the game off in the seventh for Crater.
Owens, Collman (2), Marcella (2), Evans (4), Greenslade (6) and Jensen; Memmott, Scott (4), Hollingsworth (7) and Gilliland. W — Memmott (10-0). L — Owens. 2B — L: Niebergall; C: Lacey.
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