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Pinch-hitter Josh Paugh delivers the winning hit in Friday's win over Gresham

PMG PHOTO: DAVID BALL - Sandy pitcher Quinnton Reilly deals a throw with a runner in motion from second base during the Pioneers 1-0 loss to Centennial last Thursday.

Mount Hood Conference

Team Score
Centennial Eagles
Sandy Pioneers

Sandy's baseball team suffered a hiccup in the sixth inning and it proved to be the difference in Centennial's 1-0 win last Thursday.

The teams took a scoreless game into the sixth when Kyle Fitzgerald singled through the left side. He would find his way to the other corner eventually. First, he swiped second base on a tight play at the bag, then scooted into third on a ground ball by Andrew Caron.

That is where Fitzgerald went to work, aggressively exploding off third base with exaggerated running motions. He was itching to get home.

"It was an important run, and I was looking for anyway that I could contribute," Fitzgerald said. "I was moving around trying to distract him and make him miss his targets."

Sandy starter Quinnton Reilly faced a full count against Centennial hitter Landan Fery before sending a low ball to the plate. Fery swung and missed, but the tricky catch eluded the Pioneers. A dropped third strike that sparked a flurry of motion.

Fitzgerald was moving in the pitch, coming in full speed before Sandy catcher Brendan McAra locked eyes with him prompting Fitzgerald to stomp the brakes about 30 feet from home plate. McAra shifted and fired a throw to the other side to get the hitter, but the ball sailed high into right field. Fitzgerald trotted home for the game's only run.

Still, the Pioneers had two more turns with the bats to get even.

Fitzgerald retired the side 1-2-3 in the sixth on a pair of strikeouts sandwiched around a grounder back to the mound.

Sandy put the tying run on base in the seventh after Colby Carson fouled off a pair of third strikes and drew a walk.

The Pioneers wouldn't get the tying run any further around the bases.

PMG PHOTO: DAVID BALL - Sandy catcher Brendan McAra came up with a foul ball to end the fifth inning.

A fielder's choice put Centennial out out away from the win, and after throwing over to first base a couple times, Fitzgerald got the sign again and picked the runner off to end the game.

"Everything was nice and quick, and we came close a few times," Fitzgerald said. "They put up the pick-off sign again, and I just listened to my coaches."

Centennial stranded runners in scoring position in both the fourth and fifth innings. In the fifth, McAra twisted his body to catch a pop-up behind the plate that left Centennial's lead runner at third base.

Sandy caused some nervous moments in the bottom of the fifth when Gerardo Mechaca drilled a fly ball to deep center field that put Hemmer on the move.

"I knew right away that it was deep and over my head," Hemmer said. "I saw it start to tail away, and rather than spinning around, I reached my glove across and made the play."

Fitzgerald and Sandy's Quinnton Reilly combined to strike out 20. Fitzgerald spent most of the day ahead in the count, throwing first-pitch strikes to 19 of the 22 (.864) batters he faced.

Sandy had a chance to get on the scoreboard first after Menchaca hit a two-out double in the second inning, but a ground out moments later ended the threat.

The Pioneers returned to the field Friday and picked up a 1-0 win over Gresham with pinch-hitter Josh Paugh sending a line drive to center field to bring in Christian Olmos with the winning run in the bottom of the seventh. An error in the previous at-bat kept the inning alive.

Sandy starter Tanon Mein threw a complete-game, two-hitter with three strikeouts.

View photos at ...

This story is slated for our April 10, print edition.

— - MHC baseball & softball

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