HERMISTON — The sparks in the heart of Pendleton’s offense did little more than fizzle in Friday’s Columbia River Conference finale. But the Bulldog defenders certainly did their share to make up for it.
Pendleton waltzed to a 9-1 victory in Hermiston with just seven hits, supplemented by seven errors and almost as many wild pitches.
The win likely cements the Bucks (19-5, 10-2 CRC) into second place in the Class 5A RPI rankings by the OSAA. With the rankings freeze set to kick in at midnight on Monday, that would mean Pendleton will draw the No. 2 spot for the play-in round of the postseason. As of Friday night — before any last-minute moving and shaking — the Bucks are matched up with Cleveland (5-11, 3-7 PIL) for a home game.
The 21st-ranked Hermiston squad will get a play-in game as well, hitting the road for a match in the middle of next week in dire need of putting Friday’s disappointment in the rearview mirror. The loss for Hermiston (9-16, 5-7 CRC) felt like a summation of all the things that have hindered the Bulldogs this season, first baseman Tate Gabriel said.
“As of now, we just need to flush everything,” Gabriel said. “We start 0-0 next week Monday. We have to go on the road and have to get a big first win.”
Pendleton’s third and fourth hitters Tommy Lane and Sean Van Pelt — who came into the game with Hermiston leading the team in batting at .529 and .435 apiece — each went 0 for 4 at the plate. Lane is chasing a handful of school records this spring and said he may have psyched himself out.
“Maybe a little bit,” said Lane, who’s 10 home runs have tied a record and 47 RBIs are one shy. “But I’ve got to give it to that first pitcher (John Couture). He kind of owns me this year.”
Hermiston starter Couture struck out Lane twice on six total pitches in his first two at-bats but only threw the first three innings and change. After the first four Bucks reached base in the fourth inning, Hermiston went to the bullpen — and things only got worse.
Pendleton scored six runs in the inning, aided by three errors and five wild pitches. The Bucks only needed three hits for the half dozen.
Though the regularly scheduled slate is completed, Pendleton will play one more neutral site game on Tuesday for a little bit of extra practice before playoff time. The game won’t do anything to the RPI rankings, but Pendleton still wants to face Class 6A Central Catholic (18-7, 12-3 Mt. Hood Conference) at 4:30 p.m. in Hood River — a decent midway point between Portland and the Round-Up City.
“We just though it would be a good opportunity to stay sharp and play a quality team,” Pendleton coach Greg Whitten said. “We’ll let our pitchers get a little bit of work, probably have everybody throw an inning or so.”
Contact reporter AJ Mazzolini at (541) 966-0839 or firstname.lastname@example.org.