Half of their Columbia River Conference slate behind them, the Pendleton and Hermiston baseball and softball teams picked an appropriate way to dive into the latter half.

Against each other.

The diamond edition of War on 84 begins tonight at Bob White Field, as both baseball clubs lock up in a 4 p.m. twinbill.

On Saturday, the Bulldogs and Buckaroos square off at 3 p.m. in a doubleheader at Sunridge Middle School.

For the Pendleton baseball team, it marks the first time its met Hermiston since the Bulldogs swept the series against the Bucks last spring.

Pendleton (11-8, 3-3 CRC) hasn’t forgotten about the aberrant occurrence.

“It was the first time they (swept us) in my career, and probably ever,” Pendleton baseball coach Greg Whitten said. “We know they still have a good team. It’s going to be a challenge for us.”

Both teams go into the CRC tilts on different trajectories.

League-leading Hermiston (10-10, 5-1 CRC) has won six of its last seven games after starting the season with a paltry 4-9 mark.

“We’re off to a good start (in league)” Hermiston coach Doug Taylor said. “We didn’t play our best against Hood River (last weekend), but we still won two out of three. That’s a good sign.”

The Bulldogs have leaned on the pitching of the three-man rotation of Nychal Gritz, Sean Smith and RJ Robles.

Gritz, the reigning CRC pitcher of the year, overpowers teams with his velocity while Smith and Robles are crafty.

“Last year Hermiston’s biggest advantage was its hitting,” Whitten said. “This year they have the pitching.”

Utility man Jesus Rosales has been a constant offensively for Hermiston, while Gritz and Smith  — all seniors — have also been terrors at the plate.

They can’t let up today, Taylor said.

“Pendleton is a much-improved team from a year ago,” Taylor said. “They’re not going to want to be swept again.”

While Hermiston comes into the game with a full head of steam, Pendleton is trying to shake a string of mental lapses.

Pendleton dropped its last three games to defending CRC champion The Dalles, and committed nine errors in a 12-11 loss to the Eagle Indians on Tuesday.

If the Buckaroos want to make a push for a league title, it can’t afford any more hiccups.

“We’ve been very inconsistent,” Whitten said of his team. “We’ve pitched extremely well and had timely hitting, then everything kind of reversed itself.

“If we want to win the league, we have to at least win the series,” Whitten said. “Get three out of four, and that’s what we plan on doing.”

Pitchers Quinn Cockburn (2.37 ERA) and Chad McCoy (5.6 ERA) have seen the most innings this season and have been the most consistent, Whitten said.

The pitching staff has been hampered by injuries with Brady Smith and Brandon Hergert out with elbow injuries.

Offensively, McCoy (.339) and junior catcher Alex O’Rourke (.333) have paced the Buckaroos.

Softball: The Pendleton-Hermiston softball series features a pair of clubs that have experienced immense success at the state level the last two seasons.

A year ago, Hermiston the 5A runner-up, the same season Pendleton held on to a No. 1 ranking before getting upset in the playoffs.

Two years ago, Pendleton won a 5A state championship.

This season, Pendleton has leaned on two elements: the arm of Hailey Kline and the long ball.

Kline has been a force in the circle for the Buckaroos, posting a .089 ERA in CRC play and 2.15 overall.

Offensively, Pendleton is on pace to set a school record for homers.

Tiah Grass, who has a school record eight homers this spring, leads a team that has a combined 22 homers. They’re already four shy of the record 26 the Bucks hit in 2008.

Evangelina Olivera (4), Darian Lindsey (4) and Alexis Morrison (3) have also contributed to homer total.

But power-hitting Pendleton hasn’t been consistent in many phases of the game this year.

“Consistency has been our biggest issue,” Pendleton coach Tim Cary said. “We seem to play a couple good games, then play a bad game. We’re trying to improve and keep our focus.”

Pendleton (14-5, 5-1 CRC) is still leading the league, though it suffered its worst league loss in recent memory when it fell 15-4 to Hood River last week.

Hermiston (6-12, 2-4 CRC) has struggled this season, but Cary believes the Bulldogs’ bats are capable.

“They’re very hot right now. They’re swinging the bats,” Cary said. “It should a fun Saturday.”

Hermiston has leaned on the efforts of returning all-CRC sluggers Kylee Andreason and Abi Drotzman.

“They’re hitting the ball well,” Hermiston coach Kylie Nichols said. “We had 11 hits in (a 7-4 loss to Hood River on Tuesday). We just have to keep eliminating mistakes.”

Hermiston is led in the circle by Taylor Betz and Madisen Ledbetter, who will be trying to shut down Pendleton’s swing-for-the-fences offense.

““They come out pretty aggressive on offense,” Nichols said. “We need to come out and do the same on defense.”

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