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After dropping game two, Country Christian/North Clackamas rally in game three

PMG PHOTO: TANNER RUSS - Country Christian/North Clackamas Christian edged Colton in a three game series, 2-1. Neighboring teams and occasional teammates over the past week. Colton traveled to Country Christian's field twice to take on the Country Christian-North Clackamas Christian cooperative team in a trio of games, and twice the home team walked away the victor.

"We are coaching them all the way through the game because they're young," Country Christian/North Clackamas Christian coach Garylee Syphard said. "We're starting five freshmen and a sophomore, so we're very young. It really is a work in progress every inning. Mostly everything they see is something for the very first time. You can't get overly frustrated with them because they're growing."

The first encounter came on Tuesday, April 16 and the Cougars defeated the Vikings 9-4 after seven innings.

Colton got out in front early after sophomore Jeremiah Armas grounded out to bring fellow sophomore Cody Tiano across home base in the bottom of the first. The lead didn't last long though.

Country Christian/North Clackamas Christian loaded the bases thanks to Colton errors, and scored its first run after freshman Judah Syphard was struck by a pitch to bring freshman Luke Nelson in for the first run. Four more runs came in for the Cougars, including a pair thanks to a single from senior Sean Gilmer.

Colton recovered ground in the bottom of the third inning, scoring three runs to close the deficit to just one point. That was, however, as close as the Vikings got to victory. Country/North Clackamas put in four more runs to seal the deal.

Nelson recorded three RBIs on the day with one hit, one run, and Gilmer had two RBIs, one hit, and one run. Junior Tyler Burch, in five at-bats, had two runs, two hits, and one RBI at the end of the day.

Colton bounced back in a big way in the first of two games on Thursday, April 18, shutting out the Cougars 8-0. The game started slowly enough as neither team scored through the first three innings, but Colton picked up a run in the fourth, fifth, and sixth innings while keeping Country/North Clackamas off the board. Then, the Vikings exploded in the seventh inning, sealing the deal.

Colton put five runs up in the final stanza, beginning with a Cody Tiano score after a balk from pitcher Sean Gilmer. Senior Miles Payne hit a sacrifice grounder to bring in Armas to make the lead 5-0. Three more runs sealed the deal, and Colton evened the series 1-1.

The win was a product of a front runners mentality, according to Colton head coach and AD Nikolas Mason. While it served the team well in the victory, it made it difficult for them to fight back in the defeats. PMG PHOTO: TANNER RUSS - The Cougars' Hadden Stark swings at a pitch against Colton.

"The difference is when we're in the baseball game, we play really well," Mason said. "And when we're down, we don't. Guys just kind of give up, and that's a mentality thing we need to work on. That's all it is. When things don't go our way, we don't know how to deal with it."

After a quick uniform change and a break in the action, the third game kicked off and the Vikings picked up where they left off.

The top of the first inning saw Colton put two runs through, senior TJ Tiano and Armas. But the Cougars bounced back in the best possible way.

Country/North Clackamas put up eight runs in the bottom of the first inning, and tacked on another three in the bottom of the third. Sophomore Howie Long had three RBIs and two hits in the game in three at-bats, and junior Hadden Stark had two runs, one hit, and one RBI on the day.

From the mound, Country Christian relief pitcher Mark Grandle had seven strikeouts and five hits over seven innings. Contrast that to Colton's Cody Tiano who, over five innings, recorded six strikeouts but gave up eight hits, and the difference was in the pitching.

"Mark is the leader of our ball club," coach Syphard said. "He's the one who keeps everybody engaged not only on the diamond in games, but also in practice, and everybody does follow him. He's a mild mannered kid, but he does know how to take control of the moment. As far as him on the mound, we know he has good enough stuff to be there. It's about consistency, and when he dialed in the curveball we knew we'd be okay."

Grandle stepped up to the challenge of pitching and did well, and was also quick to praise utility player Howie Long for taking over the catcher's position while he was pitching.

"Howie's game today was really good," Grandle said. "It's a new position because he's our utility player, he's all over the place, and that can be hard, especially for a young guy (he's only a sophomore). But I really appreciate his work ethic, and he kept the ball in front of the plate. Actually, his at-bats too were very helpful for us all the way around."

The wins marked Country/North Clackamas's first league victories. The Cougars (2-7 in league, 5-10 overall) move into the next series against Culver (6-3 in league, 8-8 overall), hosting the Bulldogs on Monday, April 22 after the Pioneer goes to press.

Colton (3-2 in league, 4-6 overall) will look to rebound against Sheridan (1-6 in league, 2-8 overall) on Monday, April 22.

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