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Buckaroos have one game left at Portland Christian to recover from month-long swoon

PMG PHOTO: GARY ALLEN - St. Paul junior T.J. Crawford takes a peak at first base on the Buckaroos double-header loss to Portland Christian last week. The Bucks will need to get past the Royals this week to keep their season alive in the league playoffs.It's do or die time for the St. Paul baseball team.

After opening the season with an 11-3 record, including six straight victories to kick off their league schedule, the Buckaroos (13-13, 8-10 SD1) are trying to right the ship from a month-long stretch in which the team has gone 2-10 since April 16 to finish in fifth place in the Special District 1 standings.

The final games of the regular season concluded last week with the Bucks falling in three straight games to the Portland Christian Royals (14-11, 8-10), bringing their current streak of losses to five consecutive games.

St. Paul opened the week on the road on May 7 looking to recover from back-to-back losses the previous week to the No. 8 Neah-Kah-Nie Pirates. Instead, the Buckaroos walked away with a tough 6-5 loss after giving up four runs to the Royals in the bottom of the seventh inning.

After the two teams traded runs to open the game, St. Paul took a 2-1 lead in the top of the third on a sacrifice grounder from Justin Herberger to score fellow senior Jaidyn Jackson.

The Bucks added two more runs to their lead in the fifth when Rawley Koch doubled to right field to score T.J. Crawford, followed by a fielder's choice bunt from Efrain Ramirez that brought home Herberger.

The Royals added a second run to their score in the bottom of the inning, but the Bucks took it back in the top of the seventh when a Portland Christian Error moved Herberger to third base, where he was once again bunted home by Ramirez.

But the wheels came off in the bottom of the seventh when the Buckaroos committed back-to-back fielding errors on the same play to score runners on first and third to make it a 5-4 game.

A line drive single to right field drove in another run to tie the game at 5-5, and the Royals completed the rally two at-bats later on the Bucks' third error of the game.

Herberger led the team on offense, going 1-for-3 with two RBIs and two runs scored, while Jackson was 2-for-4 at the plate with a pair of runs. Jackson added five innings on the mound, giving up two earned runs and three hits to go along with four strikeouts.

The Buckaroos returned home on May 9 to host the Royals for a double header, falling by scores of 14-9 and 14-4 to lose the season series and finish behind Portland Christian in the final league standings.

St. Paul's season now comes down to the league playoffs, where the Bucks will attempt to climb the ladder and earn the district's third state playoff spot. The team will return to Portland Christian on Wednesday for a one-game playoff. If they win, the Bucks will advance to the state-qualifying game against the Nestucca Bobcats (13-11, 10-8) on Friday.

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