Century draws first blood with 4-3 win over McMinnville
Things are not always what they seem.
The Century Jaguars committed five errors versus first place McMinnville, but despite mistakes that would normally result in defeat, the Jags defeated the Grizzlies 4-3 in eight innings Tuesday night, April 30, at Ron Tonkin Field in Hillsboro.
After relinquishing the go-ahead run to Mac in the top of the eighth, Century's Blake Baccay hit a 2 RBI double to left field in the bottom half of the inning, giving the Jaguars a one-run win in the first of a three game series with the league-leading Grizz.
"It was a pretty big win," Baccay said. "Coming in, McMinnville was one of the top teams. We knew it was going to be a challenge and not be easy, but we conquered, overcame, and won."
Baccay finished with three hits on the night, none bigger than the no out, two strike double that plated Alex Garcia and Niko Rosell to end the game.
"I wasn't expecting anything big, I was really just trying to get it out of the infield or hit a line drive and score 'em," said Baccay. "It worked out pretty good."
The rally started when Garcia reached on an error, then moved to second when Rosell was hit by a Colton Smith pitch. Smith was then replaced on the mound by McMinnville's A.J. Dix who immediately gave up a bunt single to Gene Quitugua, loading the bases, setting up Baccay's game winner.
"This team's been doing that a lot this year; staying positive and gutting out late inning victories," Century head coach Mason Wright said. "There's a lot of perseverance with this senior class. On any given night you just never know who's going to step up."
Both teams went quietly in the first, and Century's Ian Lawson put the Grizzlies down in order in the second before the Jaguars recorded the game's first hit when Quituga hit a two-out single off of McMinnville starter Sam DuPuis in the bottom half. Mac however would get the game's first run in the third when Cameron Smith reached on a leadoff error, then after consecutive outs, Colton Smith hit a two-out double to right centerfield before DuPuis reached on a throwing error, allowing Cameron Smith to score, and later Colton Smith when a dropped third strike plated the Grizzly centerfielder to put McMinnville ahead 2-0.
It remained a two run game until Century pulled within one when Baccay singled and later scored on a Justyn Herzog single to right in the fifth. The Jags would then tie the game an inning later when Rosell singled to right, then scored on a Baccay double off the wall in left, evening the score 2-2.
Mac moved a runner to third in the seventh, but failed to get him home. Yet after Century went quietly in the their half of the seventh, the Grizzlies took a 3-2 lead in the top of the eighth when DuPuis reached on an infield hit, moved to second on a sacrifice bunt, to third on a passed ball, then scored before a double play ended the inning — setting up Baccay's heroics.
With the win, Century tied McMinnville atop the Pacific Conference standings, and with both teams having just a three-game set with third place Sherwood left on the league schedule, the Jaguars' remaining two games with the Grizzlies, May 1 & 3, could very well decide the conference title.
"That's a huge win," Wright said. "We're now tied for first with a really quality team, so these next two games will be big towards meeting one of our goals."
And how does he feel his team will handle the pressure of their upcoming games?
"This core group is phenomenal to work with," the coach said. "There all in and that's a testament to them, and it's why they're such a great group."
Baccay led Century at the plate, going 3-for-3 with three RBIs and a run scored.
DuPuis and Martin Lopez-Garcia led Mac with two hits apiece.
Ian Lawson started the game for the Jaguars, throwing six innings, allowing no earned runs on four hits while striking out eight and walking none.
Century plays at 4:30 p.m. at McMinnville Wednesday, May 1, and will host the Grizzlies at 6:30 p.m. Friday, May 3, at Ron Tonkin Field.