May 23, 2001 11:00 pm

By C.J. Gish

Observer Staff Writer

La Grande started its postseason baseball run on the right foot Monday.

Now the Tigers must use their momentum if they want to advance into the OSAA-U.S. Bank 3A State Championship quarterfinals.

La Grande (16-11) will travel 429 miles to Florence to play fourth-ranked Siuslaw in the second round of the state playoffs at 4:30 p.m. Friday. This comes three days after the Tigers knocked off LaSalle 11-4 in Milwaukie (264 miles one way) in the opening round.

The kids are ready to play. This group has been in a lot of high-stake games in Babe Ruth and American Legion, La Grande coach Dennis Young said.

We dont know much about (Siuslaw). If theyre fourth-ranked, though, they must be impressing someone. But you still have to go out and play the game and our guys dont fear anyone.

Young isnt worried about the Tigers offense, which had 14 hits in their Monday victory.

The key for us revolves around playing good defense. I think well be able to hit the ball. We need have our A game with our pitching and defense.

Corey Royal will receive the starting nod on the mound. Behind Royal is Aaron Thomas.

Corey is going to do a great job for us. Hes been in big ball games for us, Young said. Thomas can come up for us, so we have two guys with fresh arms ready to go.

Another factor both teams will face is the sudden heat wave. On Monday, La Grande and La Salle played through the hottest day of the year in the Portland area, with temperatures hovering in the mid 90s.

The kids didnt wilt under the heat. I understand its supposed to be cooler Friday, Young said. But I think well be pretty relaxed and focused on what needs to be done.

If La Grande wins, it would host the winner of the Glide/Astoria game Monday.

Eagles get to face No. 3 Regis

Whats the reward for advancing to the state baseball playoffs for the first time in school history? A date with the third-ranked team in the state

Thats what Joseph has to look forward to Friday when it travels to Salem to play the Regis Rams (19-2) at 4:30 p.m.

Joseph, advancing to the OSAA-U.S. Bank 2A/1A Championships after beating Elgin 2-1 in the District 8-2A/1A Tournament on Saturday, will have its hands full with the Tri River League champion.

We have a chance to knock off a big dog right off the bat, Joseph coach Dave Schmidt said. Well have to play a very, very good game.

The keys, Schmidt said, will be to not make any mistakes and secondly to put the ball in play somehow.

Joseph (19-7) tallied six hits in its 11-inning win over Elgin, but stayed in the game with its solid pitching and defensive performances.

That definitely helps, playing a game that long with so few mistakes, Schmidt said.

Another confidence booster the Eagles have to draw upon is how well they played Class 3A Riverside two weeks ago. Joseph beat the Pirates and were close in the other game.

That is our biggest confidence in playing a 3A varsity team in Riverside and to be able to play with that top talent, Schmidt said.

His only concerns are the excitement of playing in a state playoff game and the lack of hitting Joseph has experienced recently.

We might be overwhelmed (with the atmosphere), Schmidt said. And we need to swing the bats to stay with them.

If Joseph wins, it will host the winner of the Lost River/Monroe matchup Monday.