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Corvallis Knights vs. Victoria HarbourCats

Corvallis outfielder Emilio Alcantar makes a leaping catch during Monday's second game of the West Coast League championship series at Goss Stadium. The Knights topped Victoria to force a deciding third game on Tuesday.

The offense was coming up empty but the defense didn’t flinch.

Corvallis had offensive chances and came away with nothing to show for it for a long time Monday night as Knights pitcher Dakota Donovan was shutting down Victoria for six-plus innings.

Corvallis, needing a win in Game 2 of the West Coast League championship series to keep its season alive, was looking for a spark.

Emilio Alcantar lit the fire, making a spectacular mid-air catch in center field in the top of the eighth inning of a scoreless game to save a likely double by Ethan Lopez.

The Knights, chasing a repeat league title, found whatever it was they were missing in the bottom of the frame. The home team produced six straight run-scoring hits in a 6-0 win at Goss Stadium to force a third and deciding game at 6:40 p.m. Tuesday night on the same field.

“If it wasn’t for that catch, I didn’t know what was going to get us going,” said Corvallis infielder Dillan Shrum, who had the first of the six consecutive hits.

Taylor Travess, 0 for 3 in the leadoff spot before batting in the eighth, reached on a fielding error — the HarbourCats’ only defensive mistake  by Victoria shortstop Tucker Johnson. Matt Kelly’s sacrifice bunt got Travess to third before Jordan Qsar was walked intentionally by reliever Taylor Prokopis.

Shrum then lined a single to center and the floodgates were opened.

Zak Taylor grounded a single to right; Elliot Willy tripled to right-center to score a run and a second runner was thrown out at home; and Cole Johnson singled, Alcantar doubled and Chad Stevens singled, all to right, making it a 6-0 game.

“It was nice to see the bats finally get going,” said Donovan, the Knights’ starting pitcher, whose team stranded six runners through the first seven innings. “I don’t think any of us lost confidence that we had it. Just takes some time for it to come around.”

Victoria got a leadoff single in the ninth but nothing more against Kolby Somers, who came on in relief of Donovan in the seventh and closed the door.

Donovan, who will be a redshirt freshman at Oregon State this fall, went 6⅓ innings, allowing one hit and a walk with five strikeouts. Sommers went the last 2⅔, also giving up a hit with one strikeout and no walks.

“We had all the confidence in the world in him out there. He took the bull by the horns tonight and took us to the promise land,” Shrum said of Donovan, a right-hander. “Everybody has a lot of energy right now. I can’t wait to get back out there (Tuesday). I hope the rest of the team feels the same way.”

Donovan was pitching for the first time in 10 days and coming off two straight subpar performances in which he allowed a combined nine earned runs in 9⅓ innings with a pair of no-decisions.

But he said he hasn’t been focused on results this summer as much as improving, such as locating his pitches at a better rate.

“It was just one of those nights where things felt like they were clicking,” Donovan said. “I was throwing my offspeed for a strike where I wanted to and I think that was the biggest difference.”

Victoria starting pitcher Garrison Ritter lasted 3⅓ innings, with three hits and two walks allowed with two strikeouts.

Tuesday, Corvallis will put the ball in the right hand of UC Riverside’s Trenton Toplikar, who got the victory in last week’s must-win Game 2 in the WCL divisional series against Yakima Valley at Goss with seven strong innings. He was 2-0 with a 5.06 ERA in six regular-season games.

The grab by Alcantar, playing his third summer in Corvallis, was the last of four gems from the Knights’ defense.

Before Alcantar replaced him late in the game, Willy had the first of his two highlight plays in the first at-bat of the game in center.

Willy initially broke in on a fly ball by Shane McGuire but quickly changed direction to chase a deep one. He ran hard to make a make a diving catch on the warning track.

In the fourth, Stevens made a diving stop at shortstop and an on-target throw just in time to get Kevin Collard at first.

Two innings later, Willy came running in to make a diving catch of a dying Lopez line drive in center.

Corvallis had a good scoring opportunity in the second after the first three half innings went 1-2-3.

A single, walk and hit batter loaded the bases for Stevens, who popped up the second pitch from Ritter in the infield for the third out.

After three more quick halves, the Knights were in business again.

Shrum lined an infield single off Ritter’s right leg in the leadoff spot. Taylor followed with a lined single to right and Cole Johnson was intentionally walked with one out to load the bases.

That chased the right-handed Ritter, a late-season addition and an incoming freshman at St. Martin’s.

Troy Claunch, the first batter facing Prokopis, grounded into a double play at first base and the Knights had nothing to show for seven baserunners to that point.

Victoria got its second runner on with a two-out walk in the sixth before Donovan drew an infield popout.

The HarbourCats produced their first serious threat in the next frame.

Andrew Shaps broke up Donovan’s no-hit bid with a one-out grounder to deep shortstop.

Donovan then hit a batter and his night was done.

On in relief, Kolby Somers saw catcher Claunch throw out Shaps at third on a double-steal attempt before Somers got DJ Porter to pop out to second and keep the game scoreless.

Corvallis made noise in the bottom of the inning when Johnson doubled down the left field line with one out and advanced to third on Emilio Alcantar’s groundout. But Prokopis put Stevens down swinging.

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Sports Reporter