Undefeated Comets knock off defending state champs

CENTRAL POINT — School may be out for Spring Break, but that didn't stop the Crater baseball team from taking — and acing — a huge test at Anhorn Field on Thursday night.

Sophomore Blake Fahndrich hit a go-ahead two-run home run and relief pitcher Chris Painter came up with three jolting strikeouts in a moment of high tension to help lift the undefeated Comets past defending Class 6A state champion Westview 5-3 at the Crater Spring Break Tournament.

"When we take the field every time we expect to win," Crater head coach Jay Campbell said. "We knew we were playing a great team and we had some young kids step up tonight and some seniors do their job. It was an all-around team effort."

Crater (6-0) will play Jesuit (6-1) in the championship game at 7 tonight. The Wildcats (4-2) take on Grants Pass (1-6) at 4 p.m.

The Comets did it all in the confidence-boosting victory: they trailed 3-0 and rallied; they faced and silenced Oregon Duck commit Carson Kelly, holding the senior to an 0-for-3 performance at the plate; they came up with timely hits, none bigger than Fahndrich's game-winning homer; and they owned it on the mound, getting a solid outing from starting sophomore Nolan Bastendorff and an epic performance from senior Painter.

Westview, which beat Central Catholic 9-6 in the Class 6A state championship last year, took a 1-0 lead in the top of the second inning on a Crater error. Kyle Henderson was walked with the bases loaded in the top of the third and Yota Ishii hit an RBI single later in the inning to put the Wildcats ahead 3-0.

The Comets responded in the bottom of the third: Sebastian Reynolds pounded a run-scoring single that brought Taylor Pardee home and Corey Wynant made it a one-run game with his hit to left-center field, which scored Evan Erskine.

Cole Berriochoa launched a double deep to right field in the bottom of the fourth and then came home on Pardee's single, which evened the score at 3.

Crater took the lead for good in the bottom of the fifth on Fahndrich's second bomb of the year. Facing a 2-1 count with one out, he crushed his shot over the fence in left-center, scoring Anthony Martin (who was walked) and igniting a celebration in the stands.

"It's a great feeling," Fahndrich said. "I wasn't doing so hot in the beginning of the game. I was just waiting for that one pitch and I found it."

Painter, who earned his third save of the year, may have been the biggest hero of the game though. The lefty came in for Bastendorff with the bases loaded and no outs in the top of the sixth inning.

No big deal.

Painter struck out the side, including getting Kelly — last season's Class 6A player of the year — swinging.

Bastendorff was solid before allowing the three straight walks to open the sixth. He gave up six hits and five walks and struck out six to improve to 2-0.

Painter closed out the seventh like a cool customer, allowing a walk before inducing a flyout and groundout and finally fanning Conner Zwetsch.

"This win is very big for our team," Fahndrich said. "It gives us a lot of courage for down the road in our actual league games and it shows we can do a lot if we put everything together."

Shane Suyama had two hits for Westview.

"I liked their energy," said Westview head coach Steve Antich, a former South Medford High coach, of Crater. "They battle. I thought their kids threw a great game. I felt like we had some opportunities with some of our guys and they just didn't come through for us and credit to (Crater) for doing their end of the bargain."

Westview 012 000 0 — 3 6 0

Crater 002 120 x — 5 8 1

Zwetsch and Henderson; Bastendorff, Painter (6) and Aplin. W — Bastendorff (2-0). L — Zwetsch (1-1). 2B — W: Suyama; C: Berriochoa. HR — C: Fahndrich (2).

Reach reporter Dan Jones at 541-776-4499, or email djones@mailtribune.com

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