When you get just five hits, you might expect to lose a baseball game, especially against playoff competition.
But St. Mary’s took advantage of five Irrigon errors, nine walks and even two run-scoring balks — while stealing five bases — to beat the Knights 10-3 at home Wednesday and move to the quarterfinals of the Class 3A baseball state playoffs.
Those five hits? Call them timely.
Brandon Letendre won his 11th game of the season with no defeats, giving up six hits with four strikeouts. Joe Johnson relieved in the sixth, striking out the side.
Travis Danielson pitched the final frame, allowing two hits and a run. But the Crusaders shut the door on Irrigon when they cut down two sliding Knights at third for the final outs of the game.
“We had key hits from (Ben) Robinson, (Calder) Pruhliere and (Joe) Johnson,” said St. Mary’s Coach Sean Gallagher. “We are a team that runs and manufactures runs. We like to put a lot of pressure on the bases. But (Knights starter Austin) Rice is a dandy. He has a lot of pitching tools.”
Rice is the only senior on the Irrigon team. In the first inning, the left-hander was soon faced with adversity. Catcher Zack Henrichs was nipped by a pitch that Irrigon coach Randy Henrichs — Zack’s grandfather — said appeared to be a broken thumb. Henrichs had to leave the game.
Rice appeared shaken facing the next few batters, walking the next two and giving up a two-run double to Robinson. Letendre, Johnson and Pruhliere scored in the inning and the Crusaders were up 3-0.
The Knights, closing their season at 18-6, answered with a run in their half of the first, when Nate Gumbert reached on an error and Johnny Phillips drove him home with a double to right field.
St. Mary’s struck for three more runs in the second to make it 6-1. Nathaniel Savage circled the bases on an error, a JD Arevalos sacrifice bunt and a balk. Danielson then walked, stole a base and scored on a Letendre single. Pruhliere drove Letendre home with a base hit.
Bryce Bramscher barely missed a diving catch off the bat of Rice in the fourth, but next kept the Irrigon runner on third with a catch and a great throw to home. It was the first of two straight innings when the Knights left two on base. St.Mary’s left only two on base the entire game.
Savage scored another run in the fourth, circling the bases on a walk, passed ball and an error on the throw when he stole third.
The final Crusader surge came in the sixth, after Johnson came in to strikeout the side in the Knights’ half of the inning. Samuel Aviles scored on a walk, wild pitch and another error on a stolen base attempt against reliever Gumbert.
Johnson then did the damage with a two-run triple to deep left-center, scoring Danielson and Letendre. It was 10-2.
“It was fastball, mid- to outer half,” Johnson said. “I took the first strikes and then looked for my pitch. I got it on a 2-2 count.”
Irrigon scored a run in the seventh, but St. Mary’s snuffed out the rally with two clutch putouts at third base to send the Crusaders to the next round.
Danielson said Letendre shined early.
“His pitching got us off to a good start,” he said.
Letendre, who was 2-for-3 and scored three times, said he felt good on the mound. But he said St. Mary’s success also is due to their game on the base paths.
“It is all in our coaching,” he said. “Every day in practice, we talk about being aggressive. Every day in the games, it pays off.”
Rice, Gumbert (6), Harrington (6) and Henrichs, Moreno (1), Schneider (4), Roa (5); Letendre, Johnson (6), Danielson (7) and Arevalos. W — Letendre (11-0). L — Rice.
2B — I: Rice 2, Phillips, Fleming; SM: Robinson. 3B — SM: Johnson.