Clackamas downs Central Catholic 10-6, earns Mt. Hood series split
Greg Mehlhaff and the Clackamas Cavaliers showed up at Walker Stadium with their hitting shoes on Wednesday night.
Mehlhaff went 3 for 4 with two homers, four RBIs, and three runs scored, highlighting a 12-hit attack that carried the Cavaliers to a 10-6 Mt. Hood Conference road win over Central Catholic.
Jake Zehr added three hits with a double and a triple as the Cavaliers (4-5, 1-1 Mt. Hood) snapped a three-game skid and earned a split of their league-opening series with the previously undefeated Rams (9-0, 1-1).
Clackamas starter Tucker Grote worked into the fifth inning and allowed three runs on seven hits with two walks and eight strikeouts, picking up the victory with relief help from Jeff Nelson.
"That was a really big win for us," Cavaliers coach John Arntson. "I don't know if you can have a must-win this early in the year, but that was as close to it as there is."
After Central Catholic won Monday's league opener 1-0 at Clackamas and with rain in the forecast, the Rams wanted to turn around and play on Tuesday, but Arntson declined.
"I absolutely didn't want to play Tuesday, because we needed to practice," he said. "We had some kids with some holes in their swings and we needed a day to fix some things.
"A lot of it was just the mindset and being a little more aggressive at the plate. And then hitting is kind of contagious. Tonight we got a couple guys going and then it kind of spread through the whole lineup."
Clackamas took a 1-0 lead in the first inning against Central Catholic starter Patrick Muskat when Mehlhaff singled and scored on Zehr's two-out triple to center.
The Cavaliers then broke the game open in the fourth when they sent 14 batters to the plate and scored eight runs on seven hits, four walks, and one Central Catholic error.
Mehlhaff, the senior first baseman, touched off the rally with a leadoff homer off Muskat and then capped the outburst with a three-run homer off Rams' reliever Dylan MacLean that gave Clackamas a 9-0 lead.
"The first one was a 0-2 fastball inside and I turned on it," Mehlhaff said. "And then the second one was a slider that was down and he just left it over the plate for me."
After Mehlhaff's first long ball, Zehr singled, Alex Claxton walked, Nick Vaughn reached on a fielder's choice, Ryan Ahlstrom hit a two-run double, Grote hit an RBI-single, MacLean replaced Muskat on the mound, Ryan McDonald struck out swinging, Grant Schoen hit an RBI-single, and Bubba Jaha walked. Then it was Mehlhaff's turn again.
"We definitely needed an inning like that," Mehlhaff said. "We'd been struggling with our bats a little bit, so it was good to see our guys barrel up some balls."
Central Catholic cut into Clackamas' lead with three runs in the fifth and three more in the sixth to make it 9-6.
In the seventh, the Cavaliers picked up an insurance run on two walks and Jaha's RBI-single, and then Nelson, working his third inning of relief, retired the Rams in order on two strikeouts and a game-ending groundout.
"Everyone we've faced is giving us their best, so after dropping that first league game, it was big to bounce back," Mehlhaff said. "We're a bunch of fighters and we'll scrap through a whole game.
"I think that's something Arnie (Coach Arntson) has been preaching to us is we need to fight through all seven innings. Tonight, it really showed, because Central made a nice surge back.
"But for a three-hour game, we kept our focus. It was tough, but everybody stayed in it. And even putting up an insurance run in the seventh I felt took a little life out of Central and that was good for us."