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La Grande’s Jake Chamberlain slides safely into third base during the first game of the Tigers’ split with Ontario Friday at Optimist Field. (Casey Kellas/The Observer)
by Casey Kellas/The Observer
The La Grande baseball team needed to sweep Ontario Friday for a chance at a Greater Oregon League title.
But, Ontario assured itself of a first-place finish by splitting with La Grande.
LHS took the opener, 9-3, but fell in the nightcap, 7-2.
“It’s not what we came here to do,” La Grande’s Kaleb White said. “We wanted to get both, obviously.”
Ontario sits at 9-1 in the GOL, while La Grande has a 7-3 record.
Ontario still has a doubleheader with McLoughlin remaining. But even if the Pioneers swept OHS and
La Grande put itself in position for the sweep after taking the opener behind a strong start by White. After Ontario got to the senior left-hander for two runs in the first inning, LHS struck for five runs in the third.
Brandon Cedarholm came through with a two-run single, before Tyson Wicklander and Josh Gambill added RBI singles of their own.
A four-run fifth stretched La Grande’s lead to 9-2, plenty of cushion for White, who went six innings and struck out eight.
He also stayed in the game after taking a line drive off his ankle in the fifth inning.
“I was just trying to keep them off-balance again, throwing some off-speed stuff,” White said. “A lot of change-ups. I was a little tight (early), but I worked through it.”
J.C. Rogers finished with two hits, while Wicklander and Cedarholm both had two hits and three RBIs in the win.
But La Grande couldn’t keep the momentum going in the nightcap.
After LHS scored two runs in the first inning, Ontario tied the game with a two-run fourth inning and roughed up pitcher Garret Avila for five runs in the fifth.
That proved to be the difference in the game, as the LHS bats never got going and Ontario pulled out the split.
“Looking back now, I might have left Garret in an inning too long,” LHS head coach Mark Lanman said. “But you can do that with every game.”
LHS committed four errors in the game, and Ontario got its seven runs on just eight hits. White and Eli Wisdom both finished with two hits in the loss, while Aaron Alexander and Levi Munn had two RBIs each for Ontario.
La Grande is still in line to finish second in the GOL and host a play-in game, as Baker sits at 3-7 and McLoughlin is 1-9. LHS travels to play Baker Friday.
First pitch is scheduled for 2 p.m.