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La Grande’s Josh Gambill dives back to first base during the Tigers’ 6-5, play-in loss to South Umpqua Friday at Optimist Field. The loss ended La Grande’s season with a 14-10 overall record. (Casey Kellas/The Observer)
The La Grande baseball team saw its season come to an end at the hands of South Umpqua Friday. The Lancers pulled out a 6-5 victory in the play-in game at Optimist Field, ousting the Tigers from playoff contention.
“It’s all over. We just have to look forward to (American)Legion now,” senior Garett Avila said.
South Umpqua jumped all over La Grande in the first inning, striking for four runs off starting pitcher Kaleb White. An RBI double by Connor Clack got the scoring started, but it was a three-run home run by Justin Bennett that really did the damage.
“I think it was a little shell-shocker,” LHS head coach Mark Lanman said of the first inning. “It kind of hurt. We knew they were kind of free swingers, but we didn’t think they (would do that).”
La Grande got right back in the game in the bottom of the first inning on an RBI triple by J.C. Rogers and an RBI double by Jake Chamberlain.
White and South Umpqua pitcher Matt Yarbrough traded zeros the next three innings.
Avila came in to pitch in the fifth and the Lancers put two runs up on him. An RBI double by Colton Pringle made it 5-2 and an error at shortstop stretched it to 6-2.
La Grande cut it to 6-3 on an Avila sacrifice fly in the bottom of the fifth. Then in the seventh, an RBI single by Rogers and a fielder’s choice by Chamberlain made it 6-5. But Brandon Cedarholm grounded out to short to end the game.
Both teams finished with five hits, but the Tigers never looked dialed in at the plate.
“(Yarbrough) was just throwing a lot of off-speed to start,” Avila said. “He never really came in with the fastball to get ahead.”
Lanman said he had a good feeling early on, but his team just never quite got settled in.
“After that first inning, I thought we were going to hit (Yarbrough) pretty good,” Lanman said. “But it didn’t work out that way.”
Rogers finished 2-for-4 with two RBI, while Chamberlain was 1-for-4 with one run batted in.
White and Trenton Powers both added singles.
Pringle and Bennett both finished 2-for-4 for the Lancers.
White struck out eight in four innings, while Avila sat down four in three innings of relief.
Yarbrough went 6-1/3 innings and walked three.
“I’m pretty proud of them,” Lanman said.
“They competed. That’s what we’ve been trying to get this group to do all year is compete. And they showed that today. We just came out on the wrong end of it.”
It marked the final high school game for White, Avila and Josh Gambill.
“It was a good season,” Avila said. “Good teammates, good last season with the coaches — I’m proud of all of them.”
La Grande ends the year with a 14-10 overall record.
“I probably pushed this group of kids harder than I’ve pushed a group before,” Lanman said.
“I just didn’t hit the right buttons because we’d be advancing on if I did. But I think we got better from day one to now in a lot of ways.”