Culver Bulldogs grit and grind their way to play-in game
Flush it out.
That was the message Culver head baseball coach Shea Little told his players following an 8-0 loss to Dufur in game one of last Friday's doubleheader.
The visiting Rangers, who were ranked No. 1 in the 2A/1A classification, improved their record to 21-0 with the win.
They lived up to their goliath stature, with senior left-handed pitcher Kolbe Bales pitching seven shutout innings with 12 strikeouts and only four hits allowed.
Making matters worse, Culver shot itself in the foot with seven errors.
But in the second game, it was the Bulldogs that played with composure, while the Rangers lost any semblance of it, as Culver blew out Dufur 17-2.
"We gave up those errors and kids stayed strong," Little said. "Came back in the second one, I said, 'Hey, flush it. We got another game; fresh start. Let's get after it.'"
Though shut out in the first game, the Bulldogs almost immediately put the pressure on Dufur in game two. Weston Basl led off with a single, and reached third on subsequent at-bats with some heads up baserunning. When a wild Dufur pitch got behind home plate, Basl was able to score Culver's first run of the game — the first of many.
Meanwhile, Culver senior Brogan Alegre got the starting nod in what would be his and five other seniors' last home games. Little had planned in advance to save Alegre for the second game, and besides the sentiment of the senior night move, he was just what Culver needed on the mound. Other than two runs on two hits given up in the bottom of the first inning, Alegre and his defense held Dufur hitless and scoreless for the rest of the game.
"He was pitching at his top in this game," said fellow senior Mack Little, who caught for Alegre throughout the game and season. "His deuce and his changeup and all of his movement pitches were on point. He just performed really well, and it's just awesome for a senior to be able to do that."
With Alegre effectively keeping Dufur from stringing hits together, the Rangers' defense inexplicably fell off.
Dufur committed seven errors for the game, though that number didn't account for several instances of Culver batters hit and pitches getting behind the plate.
The Bulldogs piled up six runs in the top of the third inning to take a 10-2 lead with Basl, Little, Jordan Bender, Joe Russo and Cord Gomes scoring runs.
Adding on a seven-run fourth inning, in which Culver batted through the order and Alegre and Tadd Anderson each got two at bats, the Bulldogs had blown the game wide open to take a 17-2 lead. The No. 1-ranked and lone undefeated 2A/1A team suddenly looked out of sorts, while Culver played the part of a playoff-caliber team.
"It was pretty special to give the first loss to the number one team in the state," Alegre said, "and to do it like that was pretty sweet."
The doubleheader split put pressure on Weston-McEwen to win both of its games Saturday at Grant Union in order to pass Culver in the standings. As it turned out, Weston-McEwen lost both games, which put Culver in a play-in game at Sherman Tuesday afternoon, with the winner advancing to the Special District 6 Tournament in Pendleton this Saturday.