HERMISTON— The Pepsi DiamondJaxx chopped away at a deficit against Mt. Angel in their first game on Saturday at the Hermiston Heat Father’s Day Tournament, coming within one run in the final inning before a heartbreaking ending.
Little did they know the emotional strain of the 8-7 loss would take the wind out of their next game of the tournament later in the day.
Before the Jaxx even had a turn in the batter’s box, the Hanford Flames had turned Weber Field in Hermiston into their own domain, scoring nine times in the top of the first inning. The Flames took advantage of a distracted DiamondJaxx squad, pounding the baseball when it inched within the strike zone, but otherwise laying off pitches, drawing five walks in the frame.
“I think it was just we’d give up a hit or two or a walk and it would go downhill,” DiamondJaxx coach Gabe Rowe said. “Our pitchers might have gotten a little upset with themselves. Then more walks or our defense would go lax or an error.”
Each of Hanford’s starting nine but one would score in the first. David Juergens highlighted the Flames explosion with a base-loaded triple, the final three runs of the inning.
From there forward, Hanford coach Jamie Miracle started bringing in the bench. With Pendleton pitchers struggling to throw strikes, he implemented a swing-at-everything policy. As long as pitches were within an extended bat’s reach, the Hanford hitters had the green light.
Though the aggressive approach landed plenty of runners on base — three each in the second and third innings — the Jaxx hampered the run flow.
Pendleton, which will play Mt. Angel in the consolation game of the wood-bat tournament today at 10 a.m., got on the board with a run in the second. After Zack Myers doubled and took third base on a sacrifice fly, he reached home on a balk by pitcher Sawyer Henry.
Hanford reacted with two more runs in the sixth and had the opportunity for more if it wasn’t for the lightning reactions of first baseman Brady Smith. Reliever Erik Stewart, coming in after Jacob Pierce walked two and allowed two singles in the sixth after chewing up four innings prior, struck out the first batter. Then when Steven Quadrel lined a rocket at Smith, the first baseman snatched the ball and lunged to tag the runner at first for an inning-ending double play.
“It’s just about reaction and the kid who’s leading off from first, you know he’s in front of you,” Smith said. “It’s a big momentum shift for the guys’ at-bats. We ended up getting (three) runs after that.”
In the home half of the inning, Tony Papol doubled in two runs that brought the score to 11-3 at the time. He would later come around to score in the inning on an infield error.
But Hanford responded with eight more runs in the seventh inning to remind both teams who really owned the contest. Fourteen Flames batters went to the plate in the inning.
In the early game, the DiamondJaxx held the lead before Mt. Angel scored five times in the bottom of the fourth inning, making the score 5-3. T.J. Hancock hit a run-scoring double to left field in the first inning before crossing the plate in the third for the game’s second run. He came around on a Myers double, one of three total for the catcher on the day.
“I was feeling good at the plate (Saturday),” Myers said. “Good pitches, good feelings, good at-bats. Just good feelings all around.”
Pendleton scored three more in the top of the sixth, which moved the score to 7-6 in Mt. Angel’s favor. The Trojans widened the gap to two in the bottom half of the inning but the DiamondJaxx got that one back in the seventh when a walk to Kyle Lunny turned into a run.
But with two outs and runners on second and third base and two outs, Hancock couldn’t pull the trigger on a 2-2 pitch on the corner, striking out to end the game and putting a damper on his three-hit performance that included a pair of doubles and three RBIs.
Saturday’s results were disappointing across the board, Myers said, but the Jaxx will be ready to face Mt. Angel again today.
“You just have to flush it,” he said. “Focus on the next game and hope we can do better. I believe we will.”
Contact AJ Mazzolini at email@example.com or 541-966-0839.