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Crook County jumps out to early lead, but team is unable to overcome six errors in loss to No. 2 team in the state

LON AUSTIN/CENTRAL OREGONIAN - Crook County High School shortstop Louis Duran dives for a ball during the Cowboys 10-2 loss to the Crescent Valley Raiders Wednesday afternoon during the first round of the state baseball playoffs. Duran just missed the ball, which rolled into center field for a single. Wednesday afternoon, the Crook County Cowboys showed that they can play with anybody as long as they play error-free baseball.

Unfortunately, that was not the case Wednesday as the Cowboys broke out to an early lead, only to falter midway through the game. After leading 2-0, the Cowboys gave up seven unearned runs on six errors as they fell 10-2 to the Crescent Valley Raiders in the first round of the state playoffs in Corvallis.

"We came out hot, which was nice," Crook County head coach Kramer Croisant said. "Honestly, if we play a good game like we did against Redmond, (a 2-1 win last week that propelled the Cowboys to the state playoffs) I think we had a shot to beat them."

The Raiders started hard-throwing junior Taylor Holder on the mound. Holder was wild in the first inning, and the Cowboys were able to take advantage, scoring a pair of runs to break on top 2-0.

Brody Connell walked to start the inning before Hunter Bishop reached base on a bunt single.

Kyle Knudtson then ripped a double down the left field line, scoring Connell. Carson Smith then struck out but reached base on the Raiders' lone error of the game as catcher Ben Leid was unable to handle the pitch.

A hustling Bishop scored on the play, while Knudtson went to third.

Smith then stole second, leaving runners on second and third, but Holder settled down, striking out the side to get out of the early jam.

Crook County pitcher Kyle Knudtson also struggled with control early in the game, hitting two batters with pitches in the first inning. Knudtson also gave up a single in the inning but struck out the side with the bases loaded.

With Holder settling down, the Cowboys went down in order to start the second inning.

Knudtson walked a runner in the bottom half of the inning, but other than that, was perfect as the Cowboys remained on top 2-0.

Knudtson ripped another ball down the third base line in the third inning, but Crescent Valley third baseman Roam Neff made a diving stop, then threw Knudtson out at first in a close play.

It was the last time the Cowboys would threaten in the game as Holder was masterful the remainder of the way, striking out 12 and allowing just three hits and one walk in six innings of work.

Holder was replaced on the mound by Walker Riney in the seventh inning. Riney allowed a hit but struck out the side as 15 Cowboys struck out in the game.

Meanwhile, Knudtson continued to have control problems in the third inning. After striking out the first batter he faced, Knudtson hit Holder with a pitch. Knudtson then tried to pick Holder off of first, but the throw sailed into foul territory down the right field line and went out of play as Holder was awarded third base.

LON AUSTIN/CENTRAL OREGONIAN - Hunter Bishop lays down a perfect bunt for a single in the first inning of the Cowboys' game with the Crescent Valley Raiders. Bishop later scored one of the two Cowboy runs in the inning. Ethan Krupp then singled, driving in the Raiders' first run of the game. Sawyer Cleveland then doubled to center field before Krupp scored on a wild pitch.

Knudtson then hit Neff with a pitch. Neff eventually stole second. On the ensuing pitch, Neff took a huge lead off the bag, and Connell, who was catching, tried to pick him off base. Instead, the ball sailed into center field as both Cleveland and Neff scored.

Knudtson walked the next batter he faced, then struck out Damian Avalos to finally get out of the inning.

However, the damage had been done as the Raiders managed to score four runs on just one hit.

Crescent Valley struck again in the fourth inning, scoring three runs on a pair of walks, a wild pitch, one single and a Cowboy error.

Clayton Wilkens came in to relieve Knudtson with two outs in the inning and struck out Ian Gimino to end the threat.

Knudtson finished with seven strikeouts and gave up just four hits. However, four walks and four hit batters proved hard to overcome.

The Raiders scored three more runs in the bottom half of the fifth inning. Wilkens gave up three hits in the inning but would probably have been out of the inning without giving up a run if not for a Cowboy throwing error. With two outs in the inning, he was replaced on the mound by Justin Smith.

Smith shut down the Raiders the remainder of the game, but the damage had already been done.

Crescent Valley, which is ranked second in the state and reached the state finals a year ago, moves on to host Pendleton in the state quarterfinals, while the Cowboys are left wondering what would have happened had they played an error-free game.

With the win, Crescent Valley, which was the runner-up in the Mid-Willamette Conference, improved to 23-5 on the year, while the Cowboys ended their season with a 15-12 record.

"It was frustrating," Croisant said. "It felt like we had them on the ropes, but you know, it also gives you some confidence as far as now we know we can play with anybody."

Despite moving up from Class 4A to Class 5A, it was the second year in a row that the Cowboys have finished the season with a winning record and two years in a row that the Cowboys have reached the state playoffs. Perhaps even more importantly, the team graduates just three seniors.

"A big thanks to all the seniors for laying a foundation for the program," Croisant said. "I think we can build from here."

First round of Class 5A state Playoffs

Crescent Valley 10, Crook County 2

Crook County 200 000 0 — 2 3 6

Crescent Valley 004 330 X — 10 7 1

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