He appeared in just five plays during Pendleton's 28-3 football loss to cross-county rival Hermiston this past fall.

The senior watched as an injury kept him sidelined, and all he could do was offer moral support to a team that desperately needed his athleticism.

In basketball, he suffered through a blow-out loss at Hermiston before losing a tight game in Pendleton, where he was whistled for a foul that set up the game-winning free throws for the Bulldogs, who won 60-58.

Matt Gundlach, however, finally burned his arch rival Tuesday, and it could not have come at a better time for the Buckaroos, who needed a win to keep pace in the Intermountain Conference playoff race.

The soon-to-be Pendleton alumnus belted a two-run home run in third inning that gave his team the cushion it needed during a 10-8 victory and also pushed the Bucks' win streak to five games over Hermiston in baseball.

"It's always nice to get a little redemption, especially the way things have gone this season against Hermiston," Gundlach said. "I'm a competitive person that likes to win, and it really was just good to get the win more than anything."

It was his second home run in as many games - both to center field - and it was his third round tripper of the season, which leads the club.

"My hitting has kind of been a surprise," Gundlach said. "I've never really had that much power, but I feel comfortable at the plate."

With a 2 for 3 effort at the dish Tuesday as the team's leadoff hitter, Gundlach raised his average to a scorching .444, which is something that has coach Todd Zimmermann pleased.

"It gives this team a lift when our leadoff hitter can get on base," Zimmermann said. "Matt is putting good swings on the ball and wanting to drive it, and when you do that, good things happen."

Gundlach also extended his hit streak to 12 games in his attempt to tie or break the school record of 19 that was attained last season by catcher Drew Van Cleave. Van Cleave was named the Intermountain Conference Player of the Year in 2004.

"That would mean a lot to tie or break the hit-streak record," Gundlach said. "Drew's a real good friend, and we'd have fun with it."

Gundlach, who plays second base and shortstop, is second on the team in batting average behind sophomore Tucker Whitten, who is hitting a whopping .517. Like Whitten, Gundlach has delivered all season thus far with power and consistency.

"I think I'm staying back on pitches better and using the entire field," Gundlach said. "I got off to a good start, and I've just felt confident ever since."

Gundlach finished the 2004 campaign with a .247 average and 19 total hits. He has already surpassed his hit total of a year ago and has 24 hits after Tuesday's game.

"Matt's a very confident young man that's worked hard and done everything we've asked him to try and do," Zimmermann said. "He's accepted the challenges of different approaches and taken it all whole-heartedly."

Not only has Gundlach's batting average and on-base percentage sky rocketed by nearly 200 points apiece, his power numbers have increased as well. His seven doubles are more than the six he had last year, and he went yard just once last year - against South Salem in the Class 4A playoffs.

"Matt's always been a good leadoff hitter, and he's just driving the ball better than he did last year," teammate Eli Anderson said. "I think he he's seeing the ball better, and it's nice when your leadoff hitter can get on base."

In football, the 5-foot-8 wide receiver earned IMC first-team honors and also garnished first-team defensive back recognition. He had the ability to catch and defend, and he could motor as he did against Hood River Valley, taking a kickoff 90 yards to paydirt.

"He's been an impact player in all the sports he's played," Pendleton athletic director Dave Williams said. "Matt has developed well as an athlete and has gotten better and better each year.

"He's a good kid that's looked up upon by his peers."

Gundlach's football injury carried over to his favorite sport of basketball, but after he regained his health, he was viewed as one of the top point guards in the IMC. He averaged 14 points per game and earned IMC second-team honors.

"He liked to have the ball in crunch time," said former Pendleton basketball coach Jeff Quinn. "He has tremendous feet and hands, but what really separates him is that he just likes to compete."

As for next year, Gundlach is still up in the air as to where he will attend college. He has interests in Linfield College or Lewis-Clark State College.

"I would like to attend school in the valley or the Portland area somewhere," Gundlach said. "It just depends, because I'd also like to play a sport next year."

Athletically, he's one of the best in the school, and the kid known as "Gunner" has sparked the Buck baseball squad by having fun and enjoying his last few months in a PHS uniform, something he's worn quite well.

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