Saints struggle to score in tourney opener
|Lower Columbia Red Devils|
|Mt. Hood CC Saints|
LONGVIEW — The Mt. Hood Community College baseball team seemed to have something brewing in the first inning, but came up flat in an 8-1 loss to host Lower Columbia in Thursday's quarterfinals at the Northwest Junior College championships.
Brian Rice and Matt Land connected for back-to-back singles to put runners on the corners with one out in the first inning. But the Saints came up empty when a strikeout and a ground out ended the threat.
Mt. Hood would not touch second base again until the sixth inning.
By that point, Lower Columbia had grown a 5-0 lead, powered by a three-run spurt in the fourth inning that saw Zach Threlfall reach on a bunt to load the bases with nobody out. DeShawn Johnson capped the rally with a two-run double to the fence.
Mt. Hood starter Tyler Elliott accounted for all three outs in the bottom of the fifth with a pair of strikeouts followed by a come backer on the mound to retire the Red Devils in order for the first time on the night.
The Saints pushed across their only run in the top of the sixth when Rice had a pitch glance off his elbow. Two batters later, Trace Hokkanen singled down the right-field line, allowing Rice to move across to third base. Dawson Day sent a deep fly ball to center field that allowed Rice to sprint home, scoring standing up.
Despite losing its shutout bid, Lower Columbia ended the sixth with a bigger lead than it started with after a wild pitch brought one run across, and Noah Andrews hit an RBI-single to boost the margin to 7-1.
The Saints hit 3-for-29 (.103) with the bottom half of its lineup going hitless.
Elliott struck out seven batters in five innings on the mound.
Mt. Hood kept it close in the early innings with Hokkanen snagging a knee-high line drive at third base to end the first inning. In the second, Lower Columbia tried a sacrifice bunt to move runners into scoring position, only to see Elliott pounce off the mound and get the lead runner easily with a throw to third base.
Moments later, Matt Niebergall raced forward to catch a waist-high blooper in shallow center field that froze the Red Devils runners in place, and Elliott struck out the next batter to keep it a 1-0 game.
Mt. Hood falls into the elimination bracket to face Yakima Valley at 12:35 p.m. Friday at Lower Columbia's Story Field.
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This story is slated for our May 29, print edition.