After Tuesday loss to Crusaders, top-ranked Challengers regroup to maintain hold on Far West League
St. Mary’s did just about everything right to put top-ranked Cascade Christian off its game during Tuesday’s Far West League baseball victory.
Friday’s doubleheader, however, was another matter entirely.
After two days of refocusing their energies, the Challengers clicked on all cylinders Friday – all at the expense of the hopeful ninth-ranked Crusaders in the crosstown rivalry.
Using third-inning scoring barrages during each end of the twin bill, Cascade Christian scored a pair of mercy rule victories at Lithia & Driveway Fields, 18-3 and 15-2, to rally for a pivotal series triumph after St. Mary’s had scored a 5-2 win Tuesday.
“The difference between Tuesday and today was just our approach at the plate,” said Cascade Christian head coach Kevin Shafer. “It was not very good on Tuesday, we had a lot of swings at bad counts and bad pitches, and that’s credit to (Beau) Aldrich and (Travis) Johnson making those pitches against us on Tuesday. We kind of got back to square one on Wednesday and Thursday and talked about our approach and what we needed to do to be successful and had way better at-bats today. ”
That sense especially rang true in the third innings of each game, with Cascade Christian (20-3, 10-2 FWL) scoring 11 runs in the third inning of Game 1 and 12 in the same frame of Game 2 to break each contest wide open against St. Mary’s (13-8, 6-6).
“In the third inning you kind of get to that second time through the lineup,” said Shafer, “and I thought that in both games there were some defensive plays that they might could’ve made that they didn’t that kind of opened that floodgate.
“For as long as I’ve been around,” he added, “the thing I can tell you is hitting’s contagious. One guy hits the ball hard and the next guy hits the ball hard and the next thing you know player No. 18 on the team thinks he can hit the ball hard, too. ”
The Challengers led 7-3 when they came to bat in the bottom of the third inning in the opener, using a blend of timely hits with some aggressive baserunning to build their advantage.
Cascade Christian went on to send 16 batters to the plate, using a two-run triple by Cody Reece to kick-start an inning that included two-run doubles by Cole Shields and Liam Benade and RBI singles from Triston Wallace and Owen Thompson.
Shields finished 2-for-3 with two runs and four RBIs, while Reece and Wallace were each 2-for-4 with two runs and two RBIs and Benade 2-for-3 with one run and two RBIs.
Of particular emphasis on Friday for Cascade was applying pressure on the basepaths, with courtesy runner Noah Letendre swiping three bases while Thompson and Wallace each had two of the Challengers’ nine stolen bases.
“On Tuesday, (St. Mary’s) did a good job of limiting what we were able to do,” Shafer said. “Some of that was their pitching and some our offensive approach at the plate, so we weren’t allowed to put ourselves in that position. Today, we were able to apply pressure and kind of ramp it up like we usually do. ”
Travis Johnson’s solo home run in the second inning provided the highlight to Game 1 for St. Mary’s, with Ean Lawrence finishing 2-for-3 and the Crusaders also getting an RBI from Jake Pivaroff on a perfectly executed sacrifice squeeze bunt in the first inning.
Austin Waits picked up the pitching victory in Game 1, allowing six hits in four innings, with only one earned run among his three allowed.
Waits was so effective in his 59-pitch effort that he got the start for Game 2, pulling off an unusual doubleheader feat to take the mound to start both games. He went 2 2/3 innings in the nightcap before giving way to Ashton Moody, who scattered five hits in 2 1/3 scoreless innings to earn the Game 2 decision.
Aldrich and Johnson each posted two hits in the nightcap for St. Mary’s, which led 2-1 heading to the bottom of the third before the Challengers again erupted to secure the outcome. Aldrich and Pivaroff had RBIs for the Crusaders.
Thompson and Waits each drove in four runs for Cascade in the second game, with Thompson going 3-for-3 with two runs and Waits 2-for-4 with a three-run home run in the third.
Reece and Benade had two RBIs apiece, while Shields had a solo homer to lead off the second inning and finished 2-for-3 with two runs.
Keith Reed and Moody also had a pair of hits for the Challengers, who now hold a two-game lead over South Umpqua for the FWL title heading into the final week of league play and a three-game series with Douglas.
The top four FWL teams of Cascade Christian, South Umpqua, Brookings-Harbor and St. Mary’s all entered Friday among the top six in the Class 3A state power rankings.
“We’re in a really good spot, but this league is a tough league,” said Shafer. “Our goal is to win every league series so we’ll see what happens this next week.”
Cascade Christian52 (11) 0x — 18122
Johnson, Russo (2), Shunk (3) and Lawrence; Waits, Stofflet (5) and Wallace. W – Waits (4-0). L – Johnson. 2B – CC: Benade, Shields. 3B – CC: A. Moody, Reece. HR – SM: Johnson.
Cascade Christian01 (12) 2x — 15150
Aldrich, Haynes (3) and Lawrence; Waits, A. Moody (3) and Wallace. W – A. Moody (5-1). L – Aldrich. 2B – SM: Haynes, Pivaroff; CC: A. Moody. 3B – CC: A. Moody, Thompson. HR – CC: Shields, Waits.
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Andy Atkinson / Mail TribuneCascade Christian’s Cole Shields connects for an RBI during Game 1 against St. Mary’s at Lithia & Driveway Fields Friday in Medford.
Andy Atkinson / Mail TribuneCascade Christian’s Ashton Moody slides into home plate safe during Game 1 against St. Mary’s at Lithia & Driveway Fields Friday in Medford.
Andy Atkinson / Mail TribuneCascade Christian’s Noah Letendre steals second base during Game 1 against St. Mary’s at Lithia & Driveway Fields Friday in Medford.
Andy Atkinson / Mail TribuneSt. Mary’s Travis Johnson connects for a solo home run during Game 1 against Cascade Christian at Lithia & Driveway Fields in Medford Friday.
Andy Atkinson / Mail TribuneCascade Christian’s Austin Waits delivers a strike during Game 1 against St. Mary’s at Lithia & Driveway Fields Friday in Medford.
Andy Atkinson / Mail TribuneCascade Christian’s Cody Reece connects for a base hit during Game 1 against St. Mary’s at Lithia & Driveway Fields Friday in Medford.
Andy Atkinson / Mail TribuneCascade Christian’s Jack Knips gets hit by a pitch during Game 1 against St. Mary’s at Lithia & Driveway Fields Friday in Medford.
Andy Atkinson / Mail TribuneCascade Christian’s Ashton Moody connects for an RBI during Game 1 against St. Mary’s at Lithia & Driveway Fields Friday in Medford.