STANFIELD — Under a blue sky and a light breeze on a warm Monday afternoon, Stanfield/Echo junior Devan Craig put together a quiet performance in the batters box. He finished the day 0 for 1 with one strikeout but reached base twice via a walk and a hit-by-pitch.
However Craig’s performance was still notable: it was the very first baseball game of his life. After participating in track and field as a sophomore, Craig decided to give baseball a try this spring and made his debut as Stanfield’s starting right fielder on Monday.
“I was really nervous in the beginning,” Craig said, “but I got over it after that.”
He was part of a new-look Stanfield lineup on Monday that saw six new starters from last year’s opening day lineup. But even with the new faces, the Tigers brought home a familiar result as they defeated Columbia White Salmon 12-2 in five innings.
“It just feels great,” Craig said of the victory. “We wanted it really bad.”
Craig also made a pair of tough outs in right field during the game, making the correct reads on line drives — with the sun directly in his line of sight — which can be difficult plays, no matter the experience level.
“He’s an athlete our there in right field,” Stanfield coach Brad Rogers said of Craig. “He’s been working really hard, our outfield coach (Scott) Morris has been working hard with him and we’re really happy to get him.”
Stanfield (1-0) scored all of their runs in the second and fifth innings, using a mix of patience at the plate and aggressiveness on the base paths. The Tigers had only four hits for the game, but worked 10 walks, four hit-by-pitches and stole six bases.
Eight of the 12 runs came in the second inning when the Tigers sent 14 batters to the plate and worked through three different Bruins pitchers. Justin Keeney gave the Tigers their first lead at 2-1 with an RBI single up the middle and TJ Smith made it a 5-1 game with a two-RBI single that skipped past the third baseman.
Later in the inning, Damien Curiel — who finished 2 for 2 with two runs, three RBI, three stolen bases and two walks — busted it open to a 7-1 lead when he flipped a single into shallow right-center field that brought in a pair of runs. Makiah Blankenship’s sacrifice fly brought home Shayne Keltz to close the scoring in the inning.
After going down quietly in the third and fourth innings, the Tigers got some offense going following an error on White Salmon to get Keeney on base. That brought up Brody Woods, Keltz and Curiel, all of whom worked walks to bring in one run and load the bases with two outs with a 8-1 lead.
Blankenship appeared to end the inning with a grounder to shortstop, but the throw short-hopped the first baseman and allowed Woods to score and Keltz and Curiel, too, after the throw to home got by the catcher to seal the victory.
“This feels great,” Rogers said of the victory. “I was just looking for us to come out and compete, and get better and have fun.”
Stanfield’s pitchers had a solid days’ work on the mound, as Woods, Smith and Curiel combined to no-hit the Bruins.
Woods, Stanfield’s lone returning pitcher with major varsity experience, got the start and allowed one run, struck out four and walked three in two innings. He struggled to command his fastball in the first inning, walking the first three batters of the game to load the bases. However, he induced an easy groundout and notched two strikeouts with his curveball to escape with only one run allowed.
He came back in the second inning locked in, breezing through a 1-2-3 inning with two strikeouts and a flyout on only 15 pitches.
“He’s got that toughness,” Rogers said of Woods. “To be honest, we we’re going to tell him he was coming out after the first with 30-ish pitches, but he said ‘I want to go another (inning).’ So we gave him another inning and he came back and proved himself.
“Kind of a slow start, but first game of the season, you’re going to have some of that.”
ROGERS HAPPY TO BEAT ALMA MATER: Aside from being the season opener of his second year as the varsity baseball coach at Stanfield, Monday’s win also had a special meaning to Rogers on a personal level. Rogers is an alumnus of Columbia High School, and the current Bruins team featured several kids that are the children of Rogers’ high school friends.
“That was pretty neat to see,” Rogers said.
Stanfield travels north to take on Tri-Cities Prep for a doubleheader on Saturday beginning at 11 a.m.
R H E
CWS 101 00 — 2 0 5
SHS 080 04 — 12 4 3
WHITE SALMON — S. McMahon, J. Musgrove (2), D. Raether (2) and T. Webster. STANFIELD — B. Woods, T. Smith (3), D. Curiel (4) and A. Renner. W — B. Woods, L — S. McMahon.
Contact Eric at firstname.lastname@example.org or 541-966-0839. Follow him on Twitter @ByEricSinger.