Baseball: La Salle Prep uses 10-hit attack to take down Putnam, 10-2
Either La Salle Prep's baseball team caught the league-leading Putnam Kingsmen on an off day Friday or the Falcons are one of the hottest teams in all of Class 5A baseball.
Or maybe it's a little bit of both.
La Salle starter Gavin Gately and reliever Ryan Bright tossed a combined three-hitter and Perry Collman went 3 for 3 with a two-run double as the Falcons rolled to a 10-2 home win in Friday's rubber game of their three-game Northwest Oregon Conference series with the Kingsmen.
Shawn MacNeela added two hits and drove in three runs to help highlight a 10-attack for the Falcons, who scored three unearned runs in the second inning and then tacked on six more runs in the third to break the game open.
"We practiced hard this week, we played hard this week, and today was the perfect outcome," said MacNeela, the Falcons' junior catcher. "Putnam's a great team, we're a great team, we're very evenly matched and today's game could have gone either way, but we had the bats going and they didn't.
"We really wanted it today. We had great intensity all week and we knew what we had to do and we came out and did it."
Putnam won Tuesday's series opener 1-0 at Putnam, then La Salle bounced back with a 7-3 home win Wednesday, snapping the Kingsmen's 11-game winning streak and setting the stage for Friday's rubber game.
With Friday's win, the Falcons (9-9-1, 9-3 NWOC) notched their fourth consecutive series win and remained tied with Wilsonville for second place in the league race, one game behind the first-place Kingsmen (15-5, 10-2) with six games remaining.
"We've been really grinding at the plate and today our guys just rose to the occasion," Falcons coach Nate Fogle said. "It was all the way up and down our lineup, guys came up with key hits.
"I think guys just believe. We believe. And if we understand that it's a process, which we do, we're going to see good things."
The Kingsmen had one of those games where things went sideways early and they never could get it turned back in the right direction.
Putnam's woes started in the second inning with a routine grounder to shortstop that should have been the third out, but Nick Geertsen's throw went wide of first baseman John Foglio, keeping the inning alive for La Salle.
Putnam starter Jayden Junta faced four more batters in the inning and surrendered a double to Collman, a two-run double to MacNeela, an RBI-single to Liam Gwynn, and another single to Matt Evans.
Junta then picked Gwynn of third base to end the inning, but the damage was done and La Salle had a 3-0 lead.
The Kingsmen got a run back in the third when Sam Sholty scored on Travis Varner's single to left to make it 3-1, but they left two runners in scoring position when Gately retired Tanner Drog and Geertsen on a couple of infield pop-ups.
In the home half of the third, two more Putnam fielding miscues to start the inning fueled another La Salle uprising as the Falcons sent 12 batters to plate and scored six runs on four hits, one walk, two hit batters, and three Kingsmen errors.
One of the key blows was Patrick Rashio's bases-loaded, two-run double on a high fly down the left-field line that none of the Kingsmen reacted to until the ball dropped just inside the foul line — one more hiccup that defied explanation.
"Nobody saw the ball," Putnam coach Chad McGowan said. "None of the infielders said they saw it. The outfielders said they didn't see it. And we practice that yesterday. Literally, talked about verbalizing everything, pointing out everything because we know the background is a little bit weird here.
"And then out of nowhere, nine guys didn't know where the ball went."
Gately, starting for the first time in more than two weeks, worked four innings and threw a total of 88 pitches, allowing two runs on three hits with four walks and two strikeouts.
"That was Gavin's first start back from having a sore arm and he battled through," Fogle said. "He wasn't his normal, sharp self, but he's a guy that every game he's going to be tough just because of his length.
"It's not his velocity. It's his length and the ball just gets on you. And when he's on, when he's cookin', he's tough to hit."
Bright, the senior right-hander, held Putnam hitless over the final three innings with three strikeouts, although two Kingsmen reached base as the result of errors.
One of the few Putnam highlights came in the sixth inning when freshman right-hander Vincent Salvione made his varsity pitching debut and struck out the side in order on 16 pitches.
Aside from that, the day belonged to the Falcons.
La Salle is the only NWOC team that has yet to lose a league series this season. The Falcons opened league play by taking two out of three from Wilsonville, then they swept three against Hillsboro, then they took two of three from Scappoose, and, finally, they won two of three from Putnam — an impressive run for a team that started the season 0-6-1 in non-conference play.
With six games remaining, Putnam holds a slim-one game lead heading into a three-game series with Wilsonville that start Monday at Putnam, then moves to Wilsonville on Wednesday, and then goes back to Putnam on Friday.
"We've got to come out ready to go against Wilsonville," McGowan said. "We play Monday, Wednesday, Friday, which is a little different sequence than what we're used to, but we get two at home, so hopefully we come out and get back to playing good baseball.
"The league race is definitely tight. We've just got to show up and play the way we had been playing. I imagine we can do it, but we've just got to work."
The Falcons have a non-conference game at McNary scheduled for Tuesday and don't play another league game until May 7 when they open a three-game series at home against St. Helens.
"Winning this series just gives us confidence," Fogle said. "Looking ahead, as long as we stick to who we are, we're going to be successful."