Four-run sixth leads Estacada to 6-5 win over Sweet Home and first trip to the state tourney since 1998.

by: ESTACADA NEWS: PARKER LEE - Estacada players dog pile on the mound after last weeks 6-5 play-in qualifier win over Sweet Home. The Estacada baseball team’s dream season was on the brink of meeting its end. The Rangers had fallen behind by three runs to Sweet Home with less than two innings to go in Thursday’s play-in qualifier, and nothing suggested an Estacada comeback. Then again, this Estacada crew has been doing the unexpected all season long.

The Rangers rallied for four runs in the bottom of the sixth inning and pulled off a stunning 6-5 victory to officially earn their first trip to the state tournament since 1998.

“When we got behind, we could have folded up the tent, but we didn’t,” Estacada coach Ryan Carpenter said. “I was really proud of the way our guys always responded and just found a way to win.”

Estacada surrendered an early first-inning run and had to play from behind all game. The Rangers fell into a 3-1 hole in the top of the fifth, but cut the deficit to one run in the bottom half of the inning.

Estacada was within striking distance and was fired up in the home dugout. The team was a pitch or two away from getting back up to the plate in the sixth when Sweet Home worked a single and walk with two outs. The Huskies’ nine-hitter Keanu Aiona then pulled a two-run double down the left-field line.

With one swing, Sweet Home extended its edge to 5-2 and seemed to be in full control. Almost oddly, the Rangers had no outward reaction to their dire state of affairs. If you just looked at their body language, it would have been easy to think they were in a tie-game. Their casual, cool demeanor melted away the intense pressure of the situation.

“We’ve been in that spot all year,” Estacada first baseman Bryce Babikoff said. “We knew that our best chance was to just keep playing our game.”

Estacada right fielder Jarek Franklin led off the bottom of the sixth with a sharp single to center. The Sweet Home centerfielder tried to catch the ball on one hop with his bare hand and it skipped past him to the warning track, allowing Franklin to jet into third. Estacada’s Jordan McDaniel reached on an error which also allowed Franklin to score. McDaniel was bumped up to second on a sacrifice bunt by Zach Stamm and came in to score on a single by Kyle Beguelin.

With Beguelin representing the tying run at first base, Estacada left fielder Chris Smith stepped in and smacked a double to deep left field. The Rangers’ No. 3 hitter Brandon Beck knocked Beguelin home with a sacrifice fly to tie the game. Smith moved up to third on the throw back to the infield.

Babikoff came up next with the go-ahead run ninety feet away. Babikoff came up big with a single through the right side, giving Estacada its first lead.

“Everyone else was hitting so that relaxed me a little bit,” Babikoff said. “I had been in situations like that before, so I knew I could do it. And the crowd fired me up. When I saw the ball get through the infield, I didn’t even know what to think. I just started yelling.”

In the first five innings, Estacada went 1-for-11 with runners on base. The Rangers tallied four hits with runners on in the bottom of the sixth.

“We have been practicing that exact situation all season long,” Carpenter said. “We had some guys step up in the clutch, and it was great to see their hard work pay off.”

Sweet Home got the tying run into scoring position in the top of the seventh inning when Brett Blachly produced a one-out double. Estacada pitcher Casey Jones then got the next two hitters to fly out to end the game.

Estacada set the school record for wins in a season (15) by securing the victory. The Rangers traveled to Baker City on Wednesday to take on Baker/Powder Valley in the first round of the Class 4A state tournament.

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