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Molalla baseball ten-runs Crook County in six innings 11-1 Friday

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Indians take on Estacada Tuesday for Tri-Valley championship, chance at first title since 1995

PIONEER PHOTO: CONNER WILLIAMS  - Molalla senior Aaron Alexander makes contact and heads towards first base during the Indians' 11-1 win over Crook County Friday on senior night.

After enforcing the ten-run rule against Crook County Friday night, Molalla's baseball team will now effectively be playing Estacada on Tuesday for the Tri-Valley title.

Molalla thumped the Cowboys 20-6 in their last meeting and was able to grab the clean sweep Friday as the Indians pushed aside a slow opening pitching performance to eventually score ten unanswered runs to draw the ten-run rule and win the game in six innings.

Molalla senior Aaron Alexander battled a little bit of senior night jitters as he served up two singles to Crook County seniors Kennan Mozingo and Rowdie Dalton, then hitting sophomore Matthew Fraser to load the bases. Then he walked junior Heath Pickhardt to force in the Cowboys' only run of the game.

"I think it was a little bit of senior night, little bit bigger crowd, but towards the end I get settled in, we wanted to keep my pitch count low," Alexander said. "We ended up pulling it out and the defense had my back."

PIONEER PHOTO: CONNER WILLIAMS  - Molalla senior Aaron Alexander steals second and slides into the base safe during the Indians' 11-1 win over Crook County Friday on senior night.

In the bottom of the first, senior Will Schaefer took the plate as runners stood in scoring position. He hit a line drive to right field for a two-RBI single to put Molalla in the lead 2-1.

Later in the bottom of the second, Molalla junior Matt Roark successfully laid down a sacrifice bunt to advance junior Kolten Jordan to second base with two outs on the board. The ability to lay down bunts at any given time has been Molalla head coach Jim Dantona's credit for the team's success throughout the season; he likes to play "small ball," and win games through bunting and smart baserunning, moving the players around like pieces on a chessboard.

Then sophomore Jeff Larsen took the plate and was handed a walk as the ball sailed past Crook County's catcher, allowing Jordan to advance to third and Larsen to second.

Senior Trevor Miles took the plate next with runners in scoring positon, but was also walked as the bases were then loaded as Alexander took the plate next with a chance to drive in a few runs. He grounded out to first base as three were left on base.

Then in the bottom of the third, Jordan laid a bunt down the third base line and was called safe at first to load the bases for freshman Linden Mackenzie.

PIONEER PHOTO: CONNER WILLIAMS  - Molalla freshman Linden Mackenzie catches a pop up fly ball during the Indians' 11-1 win over Crook County Friday on senior night.

Mackenzie hit a grounder to third as Crook County junior Jacob Kasberger made the throw to second to get the force out, but the throw to first for the attempted double play flew over senior Kyle Smith's head, allowing two runs to score to put Molalla up 4-1.

In the top of the fourth, the first two outs came by pop ups caught by Miles at shortstop, followed by a strikeout from Alexander to end the inning in three batters.

Then in the bottom of the fourth, Miles and Alexander were able to get on base after two grounders were muffed at second base. Miles scored on Alexander's hit, and junior Braden Hibbs to groundout to second for an RBI as Alexander scored to put Molalla up 6-1.

Freshman Damian Pingo took over in the top of the fifth and was able to get the save as he kept Crook County from scoring again.

He walked Pickhardt for the second batter of the inning, but had good support from his defense behind him as Crook County sophomore Hunter Bishop popped up to third as Mackenzie made the catch, followed by a groundout to shortstop as Alexander got the force out at second.

Larsen took the plate in the bottom of the fifth as runners stood and first and second with one out, only to be walked as Miles took the plate next with the bases loaded.

PIONEER PHOTO: CONNER WILLIAMS  - Crook County junior Heath Pickhardt delivers a pitch during the Cowboys' 11-1 loss to Molalla Friday.

He smacked a line drive to center field for a two-RBI single to put Molalla up 8-1.

Runners stood on first and third as Crook County sophomore Ethan Edgerly took over for Pickhardt on the mound. Alexander took the plate as Miles stole second to bait Edgerly into reacting as Larsen stole home, but Miles was caught in a pickle and was eventually tagged out sliding into first. Alexander was walked a few pitches later, and Hibbs struck out to end the inning.

In the bottom of the sixth, Schaefer and Pingo both singled and stood on first and second as freshman Casey Brooks took the plate, successfully laying down a sacrifice bunt back to the pitcher as the runners advanced to second and third.

Mackenzie took the plate next and grounded out to second for an RBI as Molalla took a 10-1 lead.

Sophomore Hunter Dublin took the plate next with a chance to win the game on the ten-run rule, but was walked.

Larsne was up next, and capitalized as he hit a grounder through the third base gap for a walk-off single as Molalla won 11-1.

"We're feeling really well, we've got a good streak going on and we're all hitting the ball and fielding well, limiting the mistakes," Alexander said after the game. "We're playing as a team and it's been great baseball."

Going into the Estacada game Tuesday for a shot at the Indians' first league title in 22 years, Alexander said he's telling his teammates to just keep doing what they've been doing.

"We've got to keep this up, playing as a team and not letting a big game get to us even though there will be a lot of people there and everything is on the line," he said. "We want to really remind each other how we got there and play as a team, and if we keep hitting the ball and fielding the ball, things will work themselves out."

Crook County head coach Frank Martinez said he was happy with the way his players performed, and there is still time to take the third place spot in the Tri-Valley.

PIONEER PHOTO: CONNER WILLIAMS  - Crook County senior Kyle Smith fields the ball and makes the toss for the force out at first base during the Cowboys' 11-1 loss to Molalla Friday.

"They hit the ball on us and we made a few errors, they put the ball in pay when they needed to and we didn't," Martinez said. "We can still take that third spot if we pull it together against Gladstone and Madras; I think we can do it, we've got a good club, and we've just got to battle back."

Martinez said coming into the game, he thought they were going to win.

"I was thinking we would beat them this time; we wanted to throw heat because [Molalla] hasn't seen heat really, but they hit them better than I thought they were going to, but that happens, it's baseball," Martinez said.

Molalla heads to Estacada on Tuesday, May 9 at 5 p.m. for what will be the Tri-Valley Championship game, barring a meltdown against winless Corbett the following Thursday.

PIONEER PHOTO: CONNER WILLIAMS  - Molalla sophomore Jeff Larsen fields the ball at second and makes the throw for the force out at first during the Indians' 11-1 win over Crook County Friday on senior night.


Conner Williams
Sports Reporter/News Contributor
503-829-2301 ext. 341
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