Crook County takes doubleheader from Estacada
Monday afternoon, the homestanding Crook County Cowboys took both ends of a doubleheader from the Estacada Rangers.
Game one of the doubleheader was originally scheduled for Friday in Estacada. However, weather forced the game to be rescheduled.
Monday afternoon, the Cowboys took full advantage of the opportunity to play both games at home, defeating the Rangers 8-5 in game one before blasting Estacada 18-4 in the nightcap.
"I think that winning those two games against the No. 5 team in the state just shows how good of a team we really are," said Crook County outfielder Hunter Bishop. "It definitely makes a statement."
The Cowboys took advantage of Estacada pitching the entire day. The Rangers used four different pitchers over the course of the two games, and all four of them had difficulty with their control.
"You have to throw strikes," Estacada head coach Andrew Higgins said following the game. "If you fall behind, especially to a team that hits fastballs like these guys do, then you are in trouble."
Crook County pounded out 14 hits in game one, compared to just seven for the Rangers. Then in game two, the Cowboys had 12 hits, while Estacada was limited to just three.
Game one was tight until the very end.
Both teams scored a pair of runs in the second inning.
Estacada made the most of their base runner in the inning. Mateo Burgos reached base on an error, then advanced to second on a second error on the same play. Caleb Johnson was then hit by a pitch from Crook County starter Devin Bishop.
A sacrifice bunt by Dan Hunt moved Burgos and Weaver to second and third before a single by Jeff Juker scored a run. Juker then attempted to steal second before Bishop delivered the pitch. Bishop wheeled and threw to second base while Juker retreated toward first base. As the Cowboys put him in a rundown, Johnson broke toward home, beating the throw to the plate as both runners were safe on the play.
The Cowboys responded in the bottom half of the inning as Hunter Bishop was hit by a pitch before Garrett Bernard doubled to left field, scoring Bishop. Then Riley Forman singled to left, putting runners on the corners. After a flyout by Jacob Kasberger, Josh Norris doubled, scoring the Cowboys' second run of the inning.
Forman should probably have also scored on the play, but he left first base late, concerned that the Norris hit might be caught.
Estacada starting pitcher Jeremiah May then intentionally walked Heath Pickhardt, loading the bases, before striking out Devin Bishop and then forcing Brodie Connell into a routine ground ball to second for the final out of the inning.
The Cowboys took the lead in the third inning off a Carson Smith infield single, a Hunter Bishop bunt single, a passed ball, and a single by Bernard.
Bernard was later thrown out attempting to steal third. That turned out to be costly to the Cowboys as Kasberger and Norris both singled following the out, before May was able to pitch his way out of the inning.
Estacada tied the game in the fourth inning, scoring a pair of runs of their own as Weaver singled to left, then stole second. Juker walked before Brandon Thornhill was hit by a pitch, which loaded the bases. Kayden Settle then hit into a fielder's choice as Jared Weaver scored before an infield single by Nick Keller scored the second run of the inning.
The Rangers briefly regained the lead in the fifth inning as Burgos reached base on an error, moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by Weaver, then stole third. After Bishop hit Hunt with a pitch, the Cowboys brought Augustus Williams in to relieve Bishop.
Juker then doubled, scoring Burgos. However, Juker took two big of a turn off of second base and was tagged out on the play. Williams then forced Thornhill into a routine groundout to end the inning.
Crook County answered with a run of their own in the bottom half of the inning on a Hunter Bishop walk and a single by Bernard. However, May was able to pitch his way out of trouble.
In the decisive sixth inning, Williams kept the Ranger batters guessing with his off-speed pitches as the Cowboys kept Estacada scoreless.
Estacada replaced May with Nate Hagel on the mound to start the bottom half of the sixth inning as Crook County exploded for three runs to take control of the game. A Pickhardt single, a pair of Estacada errors, and a series of passed balls led to the three runs.
Williams then struck out the side in the top of the seventh inning to earn the save and a Cowboy victory.
Game two was all Crook County.
The score could have been even more lopsided than it was. With Kyle Knudtson striking out six and limiting the Rangers to just three hits in five innings, the Rangers probably shouldn't have scored at all. However, six Cowboy errors in the game led to the four Estacada runs.
Crook County catcher Heath Pickhardt was instrumental all day in how effective Crook County's pitchers were. The University of Oregon-bound senior called a masterful game, mixing pitches and location, effectively keeping the Rangers off balance.
"It's tough catching a doubleheader, but I embrace it," Pickhardt said. "After a couple of innings, you start figuring out what guys hit what kind of pitches and start figuring out what kind of a hitter they are. Our guys' off speed was on today, so we were able to mix up speeds a lot and get guys out."
The Rangers scored their first run in the second inning as Juker reached base on an error by Crook County shortstop Payton Faust, then scored on a triple by Thornhill. Estacada added three more unearned runs in the third inning on a series of Crook County miscues and a double by Weaver.
Meanwhile, Crook County scored three runs in the first inning, four more in the second, two in the third, then exploded for nine runs in the fourth inning as the game was called after four and a half innings due to the 10-run rule.
Norris, Wilson and Williams all had a pair of singles in the game, while Pickhardt had a single and a monstrous three-run home run, and Will Combee came off the bench to blast a double in the fourth.
"We scored 18 runs in the second game," Pickhardt said. "It's hard to lose a game when you score 18 runs. That's the way that we should hit the ball. It's just a good way to start league."
Jared Bresko pitched the first one and two thirds innings for the Rangers, giving up six runs on no hits, while striking out four.
Hagel then pitched two innings, giving up nine runs on 10 hits and three walks. He was replaced by Keller, who gave up three runs on two hits, in the fourth inning.
"The pitchers did a good job of throwing strikes, and they kept us in the games throwing off-speed stuff," Crook County head coach Frank Martinez said. "They did an excellent job of changing speeds, and we hit the ball well today."
As pleased as Martinez was, Higgins was disappointed.
"We have to go back to square one," he said. "I mean, what is there to say. We got beat 18-4. We have one practice, and then we are back at it. It is what it is. Pick your heads up and move on."
With the wins, the Cowboys go to 2-0 in Tri-Valley Conference play and 7-4 overall, while the Rangers fall to 0-2 in conference play and 4-5 overall.
The Cowboys were scheduled to play at Corbett on Wednesday, but the game was postponed due to weather. The two teams are scheduled to play again in Prineville on Friday.
As of press time, the game was scheduled to start at 4:30 p.m. However, some Tri-Valley Conference game times have been moved to accommodate travel or weather reports, so check online at the Crook County High School website for latest information.
At Crook County
Estacada 020 210 0 — 5 7 2
Crook County 022 013 x — 8 14 3
Estacada 023 00 — 4 3 4
Crook County 342 9x — 18 14 6