Before Tuesday, both Pendleton and Redmond were tied with a 7-2 record in the Intermountain Conference baseball standings. Their meeting would determine who would break that tie.
Thanks to a six-run rally in the bottom of the fifth inning, the Buckaroos took down their Panther visitors 10-4 and dethroned them as the top contender in the league.
But Pendleton coach TJ Haguewood knows things could still change in an instant, just like it did for Redmond.
“We haven’t done anything yet,” he said. “If we can hold onto that No. 1 spot until the end of the season, then it’ll matter. But our win today helped.”
Henry Chambers’ RBI triple in the top of the second, coupled with ensuing RBI singles from Rhett Haigh in the same inning and Andrew Mckague(cq) in the third, gave the Panthers an early lead. Kyle Field drove Tanner Sweek in on a double in the bottom of the second to put the Bucks on the board.
“We were pretty laid back for the first three innings,” Sweek said, “but we got a bit of a pep talk after the third. It was like a wake-up call — if we lose, we won’t be in first.”
The Bucks’ bats exploded in the fifth inning to turn a 4-2 deficit into an 8-4 advantage. Gabe Umbarger and Justin Duso led off with singles, and Ty Beers, Quinn Doherty, Ryan Stahl, Sweek and Field all followed with doubles.
Beers’ line drive tied the score at 4-4 before his team quickly reclaimed the game.
“Whenever you’re up at bat, you’re not aiming for the fence; you’re just trying to make contact with the ball,” said Beers, a sophomore first baseman. “All I wanted to do was to score two runs and give us a chance.”
The Bucks sent 10 batters to the plate as the Panthers spent two pitchers trying to contain them. Mckague allowed eight runs across 11 hits, and Tristan Adams, who finished the fifth inning in relief, gave up two more. Their newly acquired deficit would be too much to overcome.
“We hit the ball well up and down the lineup,” Haguewood said. “Sweek and Field had some good quality at-bats. Sweek hit three doubles — that’s impressive. It’s tough to do.”
Sweek, who pitched the last 2⅔ innings in relief, kept the Panthers away from home and struck out four batters. He was also unstoppable at the plate, batting 3-for-3 with three runs scored. Beers hit 2-for-2, scoring two runs and driving in two more.
“They were the No. 1 team in the league; we knew they’d bring it today,” Sweek said of Redmond. “But we also knew that we could win it, and that’s what we did. This was big for us.”
Pendleton (11-7, 8-2 IMC) has just five more games left in the regular season. Next up, they’ll travel to The Dalles for a doubleheader on Saturday, followed by a home game against Ridgeview, all before wrapping up league action with a doubleheader on Redmond’s turf.
“I always tell the boys that you have to be a one-pitch warrior,” Haguewood said.
“We can’t control what’s going to happen over the next week and a half. Redmond is a good ball club. We took advantage of some misplaced balls, but they’re going to be there right at the very end. They’ll be ready for us.”
If the Bucks hope to stay in the running for the Intermountain Conference playoffs, every win from here on out counts now more than ever.
After Tuesday, they’re off to a good start.
Pendleton traveled to Redmond to take home a five-inning, 20-2 conference victory over the Panthers.
The Bucks held a 9-2 lead going into the top of the fifth inning, where they broke the game open with 11 runs to bury the Panthers.
“(Redmond’s) pitching wasn’t terribly strong to begin with — we just finally nailed our timing at the plate and got a lot of hits,” said coach Tim Cary. “We would’ve liked to have done that a little earlier in the game, but it all ended up OK.”
Pendleton’s fifth-inning streak was led by doubles from Aspen Garton, Carissa Cooley and Kila Solomon, singles from Josie Wilson and Sami Spriet, and capped off by a homer from Garton.
Spriet had already fired away a home run of her own in the second inning, and Kirah McGlothan had one in the third.
Garton finished the day with a 3-for-4 performance at the plate. She would score four runs and drive in four more.
Spriet went 3-for-5 with two runs and four RBIs, McGlothan scored three runs and an RBI off of her 3-for-5 showing at bat, and Elli Nirschl went 3-for-4 and chipped in three more runs.
Redmond pitcher Onika Mullins couldn’t bench a single Buck, and allowed 12 runs on 15 hits.
“This was big. That’s one down,” Cary said of their blowout. “This was good for us — a lot of kids got at-bats. Hopefully, that’ll raise our confidence going forward.”
Pendleton (14-8, 7-5 IMC) hosts The Dalles on Saturday for an IMC doubleheader.