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The Wildcats come back from a rare NWOC loss to beat Class 6A Bend in non-league play.

PMG PHOTO: MILES VANCE - Wilsonville freshman third baseman Mark Wiepert is all smiles after tagging out a Bend baserunner to end the sixth inning of his team's 4-2 win over Bend at Wilsonville High School on Tuesday, May 10.There hasn't been much that has slowed the Wilsonville baseball team this year.

And on those rare occasions the Wildcats have been slowed down, they sure as heck haven't been stopped.

Third-ranked Wilsonville proved that again on Tuesday, May 10, bouncing back from a rare conference loss to beat Class 6A Bend 4-2 in a non-league contest at Wilsonville High School.

"It's very important to bounce back after a tough loss," said Wilsonville senior shortstop Cole Hubka, who leads the state with 36 stolen bases in 22 games. "Obviously, we responded in a great way."

"I felt great. When you have one of the best damn defenses in the state behind you, it's always good," said senior right-handed pitcher Keenan Sanford, who picked up the win after throwing five innings and holding the Lava Bears scoreless, allowing two hits and one walk while striking out three. "I felt like my stuff was working pretty well, and when I've got these boys behind me, I can just be a thrower up there — throw it right down the middle. And turning (two) double plays is something that's always going to help."

The Wildcats' defense committed just one error in the game, while freshman third baseman Mark Wiepert stepped up to handle five chances without an error.

"That's kind of what we've been preaching recently is just throw strikes because the defense that (we have), that this program has, has been good all-around," said Wiepert, who also went 1 for 3 at the plate with one RBI and picked up the save, pitching one inning, allowing two unearned runs on one hit and one walk with one strikeout.

The win helped the Cats come back from their Friday, May 6, loss to Rex Putnam — a loss that snapped their 12-game winning streak — and lifted their overall record to 19-3. Wilsonville also leads the Northwest Oregon Conference by 1 1/2 games over Putnam with a 13-2 mark.

Bend — ranked 19th among 6A teams — fell to 9-11 overall; the Lava Bears are currently second in the Mountain Valley Conference with a 6-2 record.

Sanford and his defense were stellar early on, shutting out Bend and facing the minimum number of batters over the course of the game's first four innings. Sanford was perfect in the first, third and fourth innings, while Wiepert and senior second baseman Jack Johnson teamed up on a double play in the top of the second inning.

That gave the Wilsonville offense plenty of time to get going, and the Wildcats broke through for three runs in the bottom of the second to take control. Senior right fielder Rochne Beecham got things started with a leadoff triple down the right field line and came home on Sanford's one-out squeeze bunt. Next, senior pinch runner Matthew Gomez stole second, took third on an error and scored on junior Will Hemsley's double to left. Then, with two outs, senior Austin Lowery hit a soft single to right field off Lava Bears' senior starter James Cecil to plate Hemsley for a 3-0 lead.

Wilsonville then pushed its lead to 4-0 in the bottom of the third when Johnson led off with a single to center field, stole second and scored when Wiepert hit a two-out single to center off Bend senior reliever Zakeri Hazen.

Neither team scored in the next three innings, with Wilsonville getting another Wiepert-to-Johnson-to-freshman first baseman Wade Hagey double play in the fifth, while the Wildcats stranded two runners each in the fifth and sixth innings.

But the Lava Bears weren't quite done yet. In the top of the seventh, facing Wiepert, Bend saw junior Kaden Isola lead off with a walk and junior Chris Doke reach base on an error. From there, after one out and a wild pitch, Bend junior Trenton Karpstein singled down the third base line to plate two runners. But Wiepert bore down to strike out senior Tristan Campbell and end the game.

"The defense was stellar today," Hubka said. "(The) double plays in key situations for us were huge."

"It was a fun game," Wiepert said. "When you got guys here that just throw strikes, it just feels good out there."

For the game, Johnson went 2 for 3 at the plate and scored one run — he was the only player with multiple hits for either team. Cecil took the loss for Bend, throwing two innings and allowing three runs on three hits and no walks with one strikeout.

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