West Albany High was running out of outs Wednesday afternoon, and no one understood that better than the Bulldogs’ five seniors.
Hood River Valley knocked around West starter Chase Reynolds for three runs in the third inning and still led 3-2 heading to the bottom of the fifth with the Bulldogs’ bottom third of the order coming to the plate.
But Ezra Lopez’s leadoff bloop single to right field got it started, and Caleb Beach and Luke Killinger provided the big hits to put the home team in the lead.
Reynolds then got five straight outs and Killinger the last one to close the door in a 6-3 win in a 5A baseball round of 16 game at Memorial Stadium.
“I think we just knew time was running out,” said Beach, one of those seniors. “So we knew we had to get something going or else we’d be headed home. Kind of a sense of urgency.”
Sixth-seeded West (17-8) advances to the Friday quarterfinals and a trip to Eugene to play third-seeded Churchill, a 6-1 winner versus North Salem.
Facing Eagles starter Grayson Losee, the Bulldogs brought just seven batters up in the two innings after Hood River (15-10) took the lead in the third. A Blake Bowers two-out single in the third provided the only baserunner.
To that point, the Bulldogs had marginal success in laying off Losee’s high heat. But that changed in the fifth.
“Our guys did a good job staying disciplined, hunting the ball down and putting a good swing on good pitches,” West coach Don Lien said.
Lopez’s blooper landed just inside the right field line, and bunts by Cody Wirth and Justin Ramirez to follow resulted in outs, but the Bulldogs had the game-tying run at third base. Beach then found some open ground in right-center for a single that tied the game.
A Bowers infield single brought up Killinger, whose second double of the contest scored two. A diving attempt by HRV center fielder Brandon Rivera on the fly ball came up just short.
Killinger was running from second when Porter Phillips grounded a ball to the left side of the infield. A fielding error allowed Killinger to get home and complete the scoring.
“We got some hits, put the ball in play and people did their job,” Killinger said of the frame, adding that he and his teammates swung at Losee’s high fastballs “a little bit at first but we got used to it and we did what we needed to do and put the bat on the ball.”
Added Lien: “Luke’s just a gamer. He comes in and competes every time he’s on the field. He came up in some crucial at-bats and in Bulldog fashion just went after it. He’s a sophomore but he’s got a senior mentality.”
Reynolds, a sophomore right-hander, sent the Eagles down in order in the sixth. He drew a grounder and struck out a batter in the seventh before walking Losee and giving way to Killinger, another righty.
Killinger got a fly ball from Caden Leiblein, one of three Hood River batters with two hits, to end the game.
Both starters struck out six. Reynolds walked three and Losee none in a complete-game effort.
“It’s awesome to have him on the mound,” Beach said of Reynolds. “We know he’s going to bring it every day. We just try to make plays behind him. Sometimes we seem like we’re a different team with him on the mound. He’s been really good for us.”
West scored first with two runs in the bottom of the first. Killinger doubled to right with two outs and Phillips singled to left to drive him in. An error on a throw trying to catch Phillips advancing to second on the play allowed him to score as well.
In the third, the Eagles turned a single, sacrifice bunt, walk and a Leiblein double into their first run. A two-out walk loaded the bases before Harrison Howell’s second double of the game put the visitors in front.
Reynolds faced the minimum three batters in the fourth with the help of catcher Wirth throwing a batter out at second. Reynolds then worked around a one-out single in the fifth before he got some more offensive help.
A loss at Lebanon to close out the regular season five days earlier got the Bulldogs’ attention heading into the playoffs.
Lien said his team didn’t have the right energy against the Warriors, who finished last in the Mid-Willamette Conference but played a lot of close games and were competing on senior day.
The coach said his team’s dugout demeanor was better Wednesday.
“I thought the best thing for us was to lose that game (versus Lebanon),” Lien said. “Like I told them, if you’re going to come to a game and play and act like that, we’re going to get exactly that.”