Tigers, Rockets face No. 1s

Pilot Rock's Jacob Pierce throws from the mound in the first inning of the Rockets' 7-4 win against Kennedy on Wednesday in Pilot Rock.

Stanfield and Pilot Rock better bring their slingshots to the diamonds this afternoon.

After earning opening round wins Wednesday, the pair of No. 8 seeds will be tasked with taking down the giants of their classifications.

Since a runner-up campaign a year ago, Cascade Christian has towered over Class 3A, holding an undefeated record against schools within the classification. The top-seeded Challengers (23-3) will provide the Tigers (20-7) with their biggest test yet today at 5 p.m in the quarterfinal round in Medford.

“They have a lot of good athletes, a tradition-rich school athletically,” Stanfield coach Bryan Johnson told The Hermiston Herald’s Sam Barbee after Wednesday’s 17-3 win over Pleasant Hill. “We’re gonna get the best of the best.”

Cascade Christian has played in two of the past three state championships games, winning the school’s first title in 2012.

The weight of the Rockets (17-9) challenge may carry even more weight in the Class 2A/1A quarters. If a trip to the semifinals are in the cards, Pilot Rock will have to take down the champs. Monroe (26-4) took last year’s title over Weston-McEwen 2-1 and carry a 24-game win streak in tonight’s 4:30 p.m. match with Pilot Rock.

“It’ll be very difficult,” Pilot Rock’s Jacob Piece said of knocking off the Dragons, following the Rockets 7-4 win over Kennedy Wednesday. “We’ll have to bring our A-game, but if we play like we did today, I feel like we can get that win.”

Monroe is fresh off of a 33-3 walloping of Gladstone Wednesday. It was the fourth time they’d surpassed the 20-run mark this season and the 20th time they’d broke double digits in a game. Zack Gwillim went 5-for-5 with three doubles and five RBIs in the game for the Dragons and Tielar Murray went 3-for-3 with a three-run home run and four RBIs overall.

All-state pitcher Austin Crowson did not pitch in Wednesday’s game, meaning he’ll likely start Friday versus the Rockets. Mike Hiatt, who struggled Wednesday, will get the nod for Pilot Rock.

The Rockets earned their first state playoff victory in 15 years Wednesday. They’ll try to match the 2000 team’s success with a win over the Dragons. Pilot Rock reached the semifinals that year, before falling to Gladstone.

The Challengers were friendlier with their opening round foe, Scio, dispatching them 13-2 in the 3A first round. The Challengers’ senior leader Cody Coggins did major damage offensively with a 5-for-5, five-RBI performance.

They, like the Tigers, swapped around pitchers in attempt to save arms for Friday. Klay Jenson and Ryan Bailey are likely candidates to get the nod on the mound for the Tigers.

“We’ve just got to keep pushing and taking it one game at a time,” pitcher Tony Flores said.

Pendleton already took down one Goliath on Wednesday, upsetting third-seeded Corvallis 10-3. The No. 14 Buckaroos will remain on the west-side of the state tonight, playing the Spartans’ cross-town rival and No. 6 seed Crescent Valley at 4:30 p.m. The game will be broadcast on 1240 AM KTIX in Pendleton.

Crescent Valley (19-8) lost all three games in its series to Corvallis, which won the Mid-Willamette Conference with ease. The defeats came by an combined 28-15 score.

The Raiders defeated Marist 7-1 in their opening round game behind a five-hitter from pitcher Keegan Firth. Chris Hoope hit a bases clearing double in the sixth inning to help extend the CV lead.

Rather than make the five-hour return trip following Wednesday’s victory, the No. 14 Buckaroos (13-14) stayed in Corvallis. Thursday they practiced at the Oregon State practice facility, giving Beaver signee and Pendleton catcher Alex O’Rourke a glimpse of his next four years in Corvallis.


Contact Erik Skopil at (541) 966-0839 or eskopil@eastoregonian.com.

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