Phoenix’s Kory Locken dives back safely to first base as Crater’s Ryan Baxter takes the throw.

Pirates rally past Comets for title

CENTRAL POINT — Crater appeared to be in control after scoring four runs in the bottom of the first inning against Phoenix senior Jordan Lewis during Thursday night's championship game of the Crater Spring Break Invitational.

But sometimes looks can be deceiving, and what the Comets gleaned from Lewis was merely fool's gold.

Lewis and company settled down after that and the Pirates slowly but surely chipped away at Crater to earn a 9-6 triumph on a chilly night at Anhorn Field.

The standout senior struck out 12 in six innings and had an RBI double during a pivotal five-run fifth inning by Phoenix (4-0).

"I think both teams kinda were surprised the way the game started," said Crater coach Jay Campbell. "Anytime you can put up four runs against Jordan in the first inning, that was impressive. But I think as the game went on he got a little stronger. He was able to throw the offspeed pitch for a strike, and anytime you can do that you're going to be pretty successful with the velocity he has."

Lewis was admittedly a little too pumped up by a second-pitch home run by teammate Kory Locken to open the game and a towering drive of his own that had extra-bases written all over it until Crater center fielder Christian Massey ran it down to end the first.

The senior left-hander walked Johnny Wood to lead off the bottom of the first, then hit Bryce Peila with a pitch following a stolen base by Wood.

Not trying to do too much, Zach Boskovich followed with an RBI single between first and second base to put runners on the corners. After Boskovich stole second, Steven Ruvalcaba mirrored Boskovich's effort with a simple roller into short right field to plate two runs.

Massey then sacrificed Ruvalcaba over to second base, and the third baseman later scored when catcher Mike Shepherd's throw sailed high on a throw to first following a passed ball on the third strike to Kos Ray.

At 4-1, the defending Class 5A state champions found themselves in control.

Unfortunately for the Comets (6-2), they really weren't able to duplicate that same magic over the ensuing six innings.

Making matters worse for the home team, the 4A Pirates had no intention of going down without a fight.

Phoenix scratched out another run on a solo home run by Shepherd with two outs in the second inning and Locken made it 4-3 when he turned a leadoff walk into a run by advancing on two straight groundouts and a balk called on Crater starter Bruce Sanford.

Suddenly the Pirates had all the momentum, and they refused to give it up.

"That could've been a time when they could've quit or gotten tough, and that's what you want in the early season," said Phoenix coach Joe Hagler. "You want to play some good teams like this so that in May you know your team can come back in this kind of an atmosphere."

"They showed some mental toughness, and that's an important thing," he added. "You can't win a state championship without mental toughness, that's just the way it is."

Lewis did his part by facing only 17 batters combined over the second through sixth innings.

"I kinda have a pattern where every inning I go I get better, and I think that's just what happened," he said. "I started hitting my spots better after that (first inning)."

Sanford fared well in comparison as the right-hander stifled a good-hitting Phoenix ballclub to three runs through four innings, but the fifth fell apart quickly.

Shepherd reached safely on another third strike that went to the backstop. Nick Workman followed with a bunt that was pounced on by catcher Jordan Higbee but somehow glanced off the glove of first baseman Ryan Baxter for an error.

After Locken popped up to Higbee on a bunt attempt, Andrew George hit a slow roller through the left side of the infield for a game-tying single. Crater might have gotten out of the inning without more damage done, but Jordan Decker's double-play ball to Wood at second base was misplayed when the shortstop Peila saw his throw sail well wide of first base on the fielder's choice.

Workman scored on the error to give Phoenix its first lead at 5-4, and the floodgates opened after that as Jake Murphy followed with an RBI single and Lewis blasted a one-hopper to the center field fence for an RBI double. Pinch runner Josh Johnson then stole third base and came around to score when Higbee's throw skipped into left field.

"We haven't booted the ball around like that all year so far," said Campbell of his team's four errors Thursday. "We probably had more errors today than we've had in the seven previous games combined."

"It was almost a playoff-type feel to the game," added the coach. "I think the kids were a little excited and we just tried to work a little too fast on a couple plays and it ended up costing us."

Phoenix tacked on a key insurance run in the top of the seventh after Murphy slipped a two-out double under the glove of a diving Massey in center field and then scored on a single to right field by Lewis.

Trailing 9-4 heading into their last at-bat, the Comets caught a break when Craig Kathol was hit by a pitch from Decker in relief and Wood followed with a bloop single to right field. Peila kept things going with an RBI single but the momentum slowed when Boskovich watched a nasty curveball for strike three — his only out in four at-bats.

Wood scored to make it 9-6 when Ruvalcaba's roller was misplayed by Neil Emerson at second, but the rally was halted for good when Locken hauled in a towering fly ball by Massey.

Both Hagler and Lewis said Thursday's win was a big one for the Pirates and that they felt honored to be a part of the Crater tournament.

"It's a great tournament," said Hagler. "I knew that this class was going to be pretty good so I wanted to give them some tough teams. To get to play Beaverton and for coach Campbell to allow us to play them, I'm grateful for that. That's a great thing for them to do that for us."

In Thursday's earlier games, Crater moved into the championship final with a 3-2 win over Newberg. The Tigers then fell short in their next game and suffered a 7-2 loss to Beaverton, while McKay beat Mountain View 10-6 and Liberty shut down Cleveland 7-0.

Phoenix 111 050 1 — 9 8 3

Crater 400 000 2 — 6 6 4

Lewis, Decker (7) and Shepherd; Sanford, Kathol (7) and Higbee. W — Lewis (2-0). L — Sanford. 2B — P: Lewis, Murphy. HR — P: Locken, Shepherd.


Newberg 002 000 0 — 2 11 3

Crater 020 001 x — 3 4 0

Sturdevant and Terranova; Bighouse, Kathol (5) and Higbee. W — Kathol (2-0). L — Sturdevant. 2B — N: Bonner, Fisher.

Reach reporter Kris Henry at 776-4488, or e-mail

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