Quinn Cockburn hesitated on the base path in the first inning. A single stutter step rounding second base robbed him of a triple and resulted in the Buckaroos third out.
So, with the game on the line seven innings later, the junior was unflinching. Seeing Hermiston pitcher Chase Root’s pitch sail into the dirt, he darted for from second to third and when he saw Root stationary at the mound, he turned for home. His aggressiveness appeared to get the better of him when catcher Landon Gammel retrieved the ball and threw for third, but the ball bounced off the retreating Cockburn’s helmet and into left field. From there it was a 90-foot jog home for the win.
“I didn’t really comprehend what was happening I guess, I was just kind of watching it. Then he scored and we won,” senior Tony Papol said of Cockburn’s walkoff run to give Pendleton a 6-5 victory in eight innings Tuesday at Bob White Field.
“It’s quite a wild way to win, but we’ll take it,” Pendleton coach Greg Whitten said.
The victory gives Pendleton (9-13, 5-4 CRC) a 2-1 edge in the rivalry series with Hermiston (9-10, 2-7 CRC) and moves them into sole possession of second place in the Columbia River Conference with three league games remaining.
Three first inning Bulldog runs put the Buckaroos behind the eight ball, but they responded with three of their own in the bottom of the frame. Hermiston took the lead back in the fifth and seventh innings, but Pendleton found an answer each time.
Cockburn’s run on the passed ball and throwing error provided the Buckaroos with their only lead of the game.
“Realistically we’re playing for second (behind Hood River Valley in league) and this puts us in a really good spot to get second in the league,” Pendleton coach Greg Whitten said.
Faulty base running cost the Buckaroos three times in the early innings. Two batters before Cockburn was caught at third, teammate Brandon Hergert did the same trying to leg out a triple that scored two runs. Two innings later Papol was thrown out by a handful of steps heading home by left fielder Michael Gossler.
“We just got a little bit over-aggressive and it bit us early, but at this point in the season we’re doing whatever we can do score runs. We came back and won, so we’re happy with that,” Whitten said.
Pendleton hit Root, a sophomore, hard all day. The Buckaroos finished with 12 hits, including six doubles, four of which collided with the wall. Hergert drove in three runs on two hits, Cockburn drove in another and Papol plated Kai Quinn in the bottom of the seventh on an extra-innings-forcing infield base hit.
Hermiston conversely manufactured its five runs using small ball and a bit of luck. Root opened the game with a double down the left field line, he scored three batters later on a Tyler Sexton groundout to second. The Bulldogs scored two more when Lucas Tolan smoked a ball to first base but Pendleton’s Brady Smith missed pitcher Caden Smith running to first and the ball bounced into the dugout allowing two runners to score.
Gammel and Sexton each hit go-ahead sacrifice flies to the outfield to score Daniel Gossler to take leads at 4-3 and 5-4.
“I’ll play like that for the rest of the year if we can and I think we’ll be alright,” Hermiston coach Lance Hawkins said. “I told the boys it kind of sucks to lose like that, but if we play like that, then I’m pretty happy.”
Hermiston is reaching the brink of postseason elimination. With three games remaining, they trail third place The Dalles by two games. Only three teams in the league hold the possibility of participating in the state playoffs.
“We’re going to keep coaching and teaching, there are some things we want to put in for the next two weeks,” the first-year coach said.
Papol led Pendleton with three singles. Caden Smith, Hergert and Cockburn each had two hits. Hergert drove in three on two doubles.
Caden Smith started on the mound and went five innings before handing the ball off to Wyatt Morris who earned the win in three innings of three-hit ball. Root went the duration and took the loss.
Pendleton travels to Hood River Valley on Friday, Hermiston hosts The Dalles.
PENDLETON 6, HERMISTON 5 (8 innings)
R H E
HERM 300 010 10 — 5 9 2
PEND 300 001 11 — 6 12 1
C. Root and L. Gammel. C. Smith, W. Morris (6) and Q. Cockburn. W — W. Morris. L — C. Rott
2B — C. Root (HERM); M. Gossler (HERM); C. Smith (PEND); B. Hergert (PEND) 2; Q. Cockburn (PEND); K. Quinn (PEND)