HERMISTON - The Hermiston baseball playoff drought is over.
Now the only question is how high will the Bulldogs finish?
The Bulldogs took a doubleheader from the Mountain View Cougars 7-5, 15-4 at Weber Field Saturday to move into second place in the Intermountain Conference, a seeding which can be clinched with a win over Pendleton Friday.
Hermiston (11-13, 8-5 IMC) hasn't been to the postseason since 2002 but will enter as no lower than a third seed this year.
In the opening game of the decisive twin bill, the Cougars (9-13, 5-6 IMC) stormed back in the late innings after trailing early to make things interesting. But a base runner's interference call in the seventh inning ended the game with what would have been the tying run on first base.
The Cougars seemed to over-think the faux pas, and the critical second game was riddled with mistakes.
Bill Frost led off the second inning with a double that got by the left fielder, and by the time Mountain View recorded the third out seven Bulldogs had scored, three errors had been committed, and four free passes had been issued.
"It was the difference in the game," Mountain View coach Dave Williams said. "They dropped their heads and started dragging around the field, and it's tough to overcome that. Defensively we didn't show up, and if that's what we're going to do, we're going to be playing catch up all game."
"They made errors and we got a big lead," added Hermiston shortstop Noe Garcia. "It looked like they were pretty much done after that."
After tacking on another run in the third inning, Hermiston rallied for seven more in the fourth to slam the door shut on any comeback possibility. Holt Morris hit a three-run triple and Daniel Mullay blasted a two-run homer to provide a bulk of the scoring in the inning.
The loss puts the Cougars in a tough position, as they will likely need wins in their three remaining games to be eligible for a playoff spot.
Frost had a stellar outing in the double header after showing up late because of SAT testing in the morning. The junior hit three doubles on the day and drove in two runs and scored two runs in the night cap.
"I came out pitching in the first game and I thought I had a little writer's cramp," he said. "But when I got up to bat I hit a double down the left field line. I didn't get all of it - I didn't get all of it all day - but I put them in the right places."
Morris and Mullay each finished the second game 3 for 4 with four RBI and two runs scored at the top of the lineup.
"We've got Pendleton before (the playoffs), but I think today was a huge day just the way it turned out with the guys hitting the ball," Hermiston coach Greg Kaatz said about the team's intensity. "I think the guys need that shot in the arm ... it really builds a fire under the guys."
"We're so excited, because we were figuring it out and I was in fifth grade the last time Hermiston made the playoffs," Frost added.
Hermiston will host La Grande Tuesday in a warm-up for the IMC finale against the rival Bucks, a game which hasn't meant much as far as standings are concerned in several years.
Garcia believes the team just needs to cut out a few errors to be playing at their highest potential, Frost feels they're playing the best he's ever seen, and Kaatz said the season has already been fulfilling though the playoffs haven't begun.
"Any time a coach can have success with his players, and then you add the icing on the cake of making playoffs, that's very rewarding," the coach said. "Having the Pendleton game mean what it means now is exciting for the kids."
R H E
MVHS (9-12) 000 022 1 - 5 6 3
HHS (10-13) 212 110 X - 7 11 6
Bryce Baldock, Bill Frost (6), Chance Kopacz (7) and Colt Kelly. Brandon Shotwell and Tyler Sustere. W - Baldock. L - Shotwell. S - Kopacz.
2B - Frost, Noe Garcia (Hermiston); 3B - Daniel Mullay (Hermiston).
R H E
MVHS (9-13) 022 00 - 4 6 6
HHS (11-13) 071 7X - 15 13 3
Oscar Martinez, Josh Young (2), Hayden Mace (4) and Tyler Sustere. Daniel Ojeda and Colt Kelly. W - Ojeda. L - Martinez.
2B - Mace, Ryan Shotwell (Mountain View); Noe Garcia, Bill Frost 2 (Hermiston). 3B - Holt Morris (Hermiston). HR - Daniel Mullay (Hermiston).