Once the light came on for Taylor Holder, it was lights out for Crook County.
Crescent Valley High's junior right-hander dominated the Cowboys after a rough start, leading the Raiders to a 10-2 victory on Wednesday at Tim Wirth Memorial Field in the opening round of the 5A baseball playoffs.
The first four Cowboys reached safely on a walk, a bunt, an opposite-field double and a third-strike wild pitch, leading to two quick runs. Holder escaped further damage by striking out the side, however, and Crook County did not get another baserunner or even hit the ball out of the infield until there were two outs in the sixth inning.
By then second-seeded CV (23-5) had parlayed aggressive baserunning, five Crook County (15-12) errors and an improved offensive approach to score 10 unanswered runs. CV thus advanced to Friday’s quarterfinals, where it will host Intermountain Conference champion Pendleton.
The seventh-seeded Buckaroos (17-8) eliminated 10th-seeded Wilsonville 4-3 in Pendleton on Wednesday.
Holder said he was a little nervous all day and tried to overthrow early.
“After the first inning I definitely settled in,” he said. “The team got together and we did our thing” to stretch its winning streak to four.
Holder retired 17 Cowboys in a row after the first four batters got on, 11 by strikeout. He fanned 12, walked one, allowed three hits and had just three balls hit to the outfield in six innings. Walker Riney struck out the side in the seventh to wrap it up.
Holder said harnessing his fastball was paramount.
“Against most teams, if (No. 2 starter) Ethan Krupp and I can command that, most teams aren’t touching it," Holder said. "Then we can use our slider for the strike-three pitch.”
Krupp played first base on Wednesday and went 3 for 4 with two RBIs. Holder was hit twice, walked, had an RBI single and scored three times. Shortstop Sawyer Cleveland and second baseman Damian Avalos also drove in a run.
CV left the bases loaded in the first but then scored four times in the third and three times in the fourth and fifth innings to pull away.
“We got better pitches to hit,” coach Ryan Starwalt said. “We were swinging at pitches up in the zone, chasing early,” leading to five strikeouts in the first two innings.
“Once we started laying off that we got into hitter’s counts instead of pitcher’s counts,” with predictable results. “We swung at better pitches later in the game.
“Looking back over the years, it seems like we’ve had challenges in every first round, it’s never been easy,” Starwalt added. “We were on our heels a little bit and it was good to see us respond. I’m glad we did, that would have been a tough one to lose.”
Krupp or Cleveland will start against Pendleton.
“We’ve been here many times,” Holder said. “In the playoffs it’s always a little hard to get started. We found our groove and we’ll take it one game at a time.”