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Crook County comes back from early deficit to earn win, wrap up third place in conference

LON AUSTIN/CENTRAL OREGONIAN
 - Kyle Knudtson delivers a pitch during the Cowboys' 7-3 win over the Madras White Buffalos last Thursday evening on Senior night. Knudtson pitched a complete game six-hitter. The Crook County Cowboys baseball team has been on a roller coaster ride this season.

When the team has played well, they have played very well, but at other times, they have been plagued with errors.

Thursday afternoon in Prineville was one of the high points, as the Cowboys played error-free ball in a come-from-behind victory over the Madras White Buffalos.

"We put a little pressure on those guys, and they started making a lot of errors," Crook County head coach Frank Martinez said. "We capitalized on it. The defense was night and day from Tuesday at Gladstone, and offensively, we put the game together tonight."

It was senior night for the Cowboys, who spotted the White Buffalos an early 3-1 lead. However, Crook County came roaring back to score the final six runs of the game as they pulled away for a 7-3 victory.

"It was really big," senior outfielder Josh Norris said of the victory. "We have always been big rivals with Madras, and it felt really good to finally beat them. It just made it more special that is was senior night."

Tyler Lockey walked to open the game for Madras, then went to third on a Cameron Rodriguez single. Lockey finally scored on a long sacrifice fly by Kanim Smith.

The Cowboys answered in the bottom half of the first as Norris reached base on a Madras error. Norris then stole second, advanced to third on a long fly out by Heath Pickhardt, then scored on a Kyle Knudtson single.

The White Buffalos regained the lead on a Lewis Fine double followed by an RBI single by Kody Zemke. Then in the third inning, Lockey blasted a home run to extend the Madras lead to 3-1.

However, with Knudtson pitching a strong game on the mound, that was the last run that the White Buffalos would get in the game.

Meanwhile, Crook County exploded for three runs in the bottom half of the inning to take the lead for good.

Payton Faust reached base on an error, then scored on a Norris triple. Norris tried to score on an errant throw, but was called out at the plate on a close play.

With two outs, Devin Wilson walked. Later in the inning, Wilson went all the way to third on a botched pick off attempt. Knudtson reached base on an error as Wilson scored. Carson Smith then was safe at first on the White Buffalo's third error of the inning.

Following a Hunter Bishop bunt single, Knudtson scored on a passed ball for the Cowboys' third run of the inning.

The Cowboys extended their lead to 5-3 in the fourth inning as Faust and Wilson both singled to center before a Knudtson single scored Faust.

Crook County added insurance runs in both the fifth and sixth inning as they steadily pulled away for the win.

"It was pretty cool to win my last couple home games," Wilson said following the win. "We definitely played baseball like we know how. We had an errorless baseball game, and that's huge. That's how you win baseball games is not have any errors and capitalize on the other team's errors."

Madras finished with five errors in the contest.

Smith and Lockey combined to pitch an eight hitter for the White Buffalos, while Knudtson pitched a complete game for the Cowboys, allowing just six hits in the game. More impressive, down the stretch he retired 14 consecutive Madras batters.

Knudtson also had a great day at the plate, with two hits in four at bats along with a pair of RBIs.

Pickhardt, Wilson, Bishop, Brody Connell and Faust had the Cowboys' remaining hits.

"This gives us a ton of momentum," Norris said.

With the victory, the Cowboys improved to 15-11 overall and 9-6 in conference play, while the White Buffalos fell to 14-8 overall and 9-5 in conference play.

Madras, the second-place team from the Tri-Valle Conference, will host Mazama in a play-in game later this week.

Meanwhile, after finishing third in the conference, the Cowboys will go on the road for a play-in game either Friday or Saturday at Ontario.

The two teams have met once previously this year, with Ontario taking a 3-1 victory.

"I'm going to give them tomorrow off and get a break and then hit it hard Monday," Martinez said. "The goal is to play tough, to play good defense and to hit the ball on offense. I'm a firm believer in defense, I think that defense wins championships."

Madras 111 000 0 — 3 6 5

Crook County 103 111 x — 7 8 0

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