UMATILLA — Riverside’s defensive miscues aided directly in the scoring of three Umatilla runs in a baseball game Friday, but none as heart-breakingly obvious as the game winner.
Tied at 4-all in the bottom of the ninth inning, a routine infield flip from shortstop to second base flew wide as the go-ahead run came all the way around from second. As the ball rolled into the outfield grass, the victorious Vikings began to celebrate the 5-4 decision.
But the surprise party felt a little empty.
The victory came just hours after Riverside took the first game of the Eastern Oregon League doubleheader 8-3, leaving each team right where it started the day in the conference standings. Umatilla (11-7, 3-5 EOL) and Riverside (8-15, 3-5 EOL) remain tied for the fourth spot behind Grant Union.
Only three playoff teams will come out of the league, the last year that will be the case. The Prospectors will drop to Class 2A this fall.
The Vikings have the most control over their postseason play, ending the season with a doubleheader at Grant Union on Saturday, May 11. Grant Union’s Friday doubleheader result with Nyssa was not available at press time, but going into the games, the Prospectors had a league record of 3-3.
If they swept Nyssa, the best the Vikings could hope for would be a tie for third and a playoff. That of course is only if they could sweep next week’s games.
That scenario would eliminated Riverside already.
On Friday, the top of the lineup led Umatilla, with each of the first three batters enjoying multi-hit games. Justin Vandever tripled in the fifth inning and then scored on a sacrifice fly by Ash that helped the Vikings pull ahead 3-1 at the time.
Riverside answered with two runs of its own in the sixth when Trevor Graff hit a two-run double. Later in the inning, Graff tried to score on a passed ball but was thrown out at home.
He was in turn thrown out of the game for a short, expletive-laced argument with the home plate umpire.
Those runs came in a shaky section for Umatilla starter Kyle Wilson. He put multiple runners on base in the sixth, seventh and eighth innings as Riverside pulled ahead 4-3. Umatilla would tie things up again before extra innings.
“I was getting a little tired,” said Wilson, who held on for a 123-pitch complete game. “I just had to recooperate myself, go through all my techniques so I could calm down and just throw strikes, throw hard.”
As Wilson seemed to be losing steam, Riverside brought in Sean Shimer to pitch — the Game 1 victor. He worked 3 1/3 innings but would eventually get tagged with the loss.
Even after a complete game earlier in the day, Riverside coach John Christy said the 6-foot-8 pitcher was his go-to player at the end of a tense game.
“He’s the guy we had to go with for the second game,” Christy said. “He only gave one earned run up in the first game.”
Shimer’s job got a lot easier in the first game when the Pirates offense started clicking. Shimer pitched with a lead from the third inning onward after a doubles-fest in the Riverside battery in the third inning. Jovanny Llamas, Omar Murillo, Graff and Edgar Llamas hit consecutive two-baggers to give the Pirates a 3-1 lead and a handhold into the victory.
Contact AJ Mazzolini at (541) 966-0839 or firstname.lastname@example.org