PENDLETON Three hours earlier, the Pendleton coaching staff was laying a fresh layer of chalk down the left field line to keep the fair territory from the foul at Bob White Field. The white line was a perfect showing of geometry back then, straight from the edge of home plate to the foul pole some 300 feet away.
But by the ninth inning, its edges frayed and slightly scattered from a games worth of breezes and unforgiving cleats, fair and foul were a little less discernible. So when Buckaroo Ian Rivera ripped a line drive around the Walla Walla (WA) third baseman in the bottom of the ninth inning with the game knotted 8-8, a puff of chalk was the best signal possible of a questionable fair ball.
From there it was all up to Quentin Quaempts, who made the run home from second base in record time for the game-winning score. Pendleton had outlasted Walla Walla 9-8 in a non-conference baseball matchup Tuesday.
In the ninth inning, the chalks a little spread out down there so in the first inning it might not have been fair, but it hit the chalk for sure, said Pendleton coach Greg Whitten, who was within a few feet of the play from his third-base coaching position.
Rivera, who is batting near .500 on the season but couldnt manage a hit until his sixth and final plate appearance against Wa-Hi, provided the second bit of late heroics that Pendleton (6-5) would require to realize victory Tuesday. Walla Walla (2-5) had taken an 8-7 lead in the top half of the inning before pushing the Bucks to their last out.
Connor Johnson singled at the top of Pendletons order but he was still on first base by the time there were two outs in the ninth. Then Quaempts sent a bullet into the left field corner that had Johnson sprinting with the contact.
The base runner circled third and came in to tie the game as Quaempts pulled into second with a double.
Next up was Rivera, who fed off the energy of Quaempts clutch RBI hit to come up with one of his own.
That just got me really excited; it raised the level of the intensity of the game, he said. I had a change of attitude really. I was going into that last inning a little down on myself for (going 0-for-4 before) that.
The Bucks needed the rally after a 7-5 lead disappeared in the seventh inning. Rivera, who had come on to relieve starter Taylor Hillmick in the fifth inning, struck out the first batter of the inning before yielding a single. In came Grant Klopmeyer to try and close it out.
Walla Wallas Zach Zehner turned his second pitch around and sent it over the batters eye in dead-center field for a two-run, game-tying home run.
Klopmeyer got out of the rest of the inning without incident but he needed some help in the top of the eighth. A leadoff single in the first extra frame became the first out of the inning when Pendleton catcher Alex ORourke caught Junior Ruiz trying to swipe second base.
The next two batters both got on base before clean-up hitter Nate Sumerlin pounded a ball into left field that sent Blue Devil Jarred Needham tearing for home. Quaempts came up on the ball slowly from his left field spot but released a rocket to home. ORourke caught it on the fly and applied the tag to keep the game tied.
I didnt have a first good half of the game so I had to make up for it somehow, he said. I let all my anger out when I threw it.
The Bucks accounted for 18 hits as a team in their second highest scoring game of the season. Every starter recorded at least one hit. Chad McCoy started the game 4-for-4 before lining out in his final at-bat and Johnson and Klopmeyer each had three hits and a walk.
McCoys major production came from the 9-hole spot in the lineup. Hopefully the big bat-work will continue, he said.
I?hope so. Ive been struggling a lot as of late, he said. I needed a game like this to kind of boost my confidence and get me ready for league, get my team ready for league.
Pendleton will have only two more games to put the final touches on its preseason. The Bucks host La Grande on Thursday at 4:30 p.m. back at Bob White and then travel across the Blue Mountains to return the favor. They play the Tigers at their place next Tuesday.
Columbia River Conference games start at the end of that week and the Bucks will start with a home doubleheader against Hood River?Valley that Saturday, April 13.
WALLA?WALLA JV 7, PENDLETON JV 6 The junior varsity Buckaroos also had a close one with Walla Walla at home Tuesday. The Blue Devils edged Pendleton 7-6.
Bucks Eric Stewart and Andrew Goodwin each had two hits in the loss.
Contact AJ?Mazzolini at email@example.com or 541-966-0839.