La Grande shortstop Tyson Wicklander tries turning a double play as Bakerís Dan Stinson slides into second base during the Tigersí 3-2 victory in Game 2 Monday at Optimist Field. (CASEY KELLAS/The Observer)
La Grande rallies for Game 1 victory, holds off late Baker charge in second game
by CASEY KELLAS / The Observer
The La Grande baseball team picked up a “huge” sweep over Baker Monday at Optimist Field, winning by 7-3 and 3-2 margins.
The win improves the Tigers to 9-7 overall in the Greater Oregon League and moves them to 4-2 and sole possession of second place behind Ontario.
Baker falls to 5-9 overall and 1-5 in league.
“I think it’s huge,” LHS head coach Mark Lanman said of the sweep. “I mean, it doesn’t secure us anything, but it puts us in a pretty good spot to secure something, for sure.”
La Grande fell into a 2-0 hole in the opener after the Bulldogs picked up two runs in the third inning off of starting pitcher Kaleb White.
Baker got one run on a double steal before Keaton Bachman delivered an RBI single.
White struggled hitting his spots early on, working out of a bases-loaded jam in the first inning.
“I would have liked a little better control, but I just took a deep breath and knew what I needed to do,” White said after the game.
Baker added one more run in the fifth inning when Dillon Blankenship drew a leadoff walk.
Blankenship scored after stealing second base when the throw from LHS catcher J.C. Rogers sailed into center field.
“Kaleb wasn’t his normal self (today),” Lanman said. “His pitch count got up there pretty quick, and that’s what happens when you walk.”
But the La Grande offense came to White’s rescue in the bottom of the fifth inning.
An RBI single by Jake Chamberlain got the Tigers on the board, before White scored when Chamberlain stole second base. A two-run single by Tyson Wicklander put LHS on top, 4-3.
La Grande didn’t trail the rest of the game, adding three more runs in the sixth when Garett Avila was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded and both Chamberlain and Rogers had RBIs.
“It was better than it has been,” Lanman said of the players’ approach at the plate. “We can still get better — we swung at some ball fours a couple times — but I guess that’s high school baseball.”
White went five innings, walking six, striking out 10 and allowing three hits.
“(I was) throwing a lot of off-speed pitches. Trying to keep them off balance,” White said.
Wicklander finished 2-for-3 at the plate, while White, Chamberlain, Rogers and Brandon Cedarholm all added one hit.
La Grande carried over the momentum it gained late in the opener into the early parts of Game 2.
An RBI single by Chamberlain and another by Josh Gambill put the Tigers up 2-0 after the first inning.
That was enough of a cushion for Gambill, who brought his best stuff to the mound, going seven innings, striking out four and allowing two earned runs.
“Everything seemed to be working today,” Gambill said. “It was a good day overall. The defense was good today, and that definitely helped a lot.”
Baker got one run in the fourth inning on an RBI groundout by Bachman.
But the Tigers scored an insurance run in the sixth when Rogers scored after Wicklander swiped second base.
That run proved to be the difference-maker as Baker threatened with a run in the seventh but came up a run short.
“I felt pretty good the whole time,” Gambill said of pitching a complete game. He said he wasn’t worried when the Bulldogs put guys on base in the seventh.
“Not really. It was more just work through it and get it done.”
Rogers finished 2-for-3 at the plate, while White, Chamberlain, Gambill, Cedarholm and Eli Wisdom all added one hit.
The sweep moves the Tigers to No. 13 in the latest OSAA standings. Ontario (11-4, 6-0) is ranked No. 10.
La Grande hosts McLoughlin (9-6, 1-5) Saturday for a league doubleheader starting at 11 a.m.
That will set up a showdown with Ontario May 3 at Optimist Field.
“If we can take a couple from Ontario, and if Ontario has a split with somebody, that puts us in a pretty good shape,” Lanman said.
“So that part’s huge.”
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