HERMISTON — Friday was the Hermiston baseball team’s final chance to work out the kinks before it enters Columbia River Conference play next week, and after a forgettable first of two games against Heritage (WA), the Bulldogs showed off their bullpen and power at the plate.
After dropping Game 1, 5-0, to the visitors from Vancouver, Hermiston bounced back to split the doubleheader after a 6-0 win capped off its final non-league matchup.
“Even though we lost the first game, I’m still proud of the way we came back and won the second game,” head coach Kevin Moore said.
The first game was not a total lost cause. The Bulldogs (4-8) had some timely hitting and used their baseball IQ to get into scoring position.
After the Timberwolves (4-3) scored a lone run in the second off a passed ball, Hermiston responded with two singles to each side of the outfield. Daniel Gossler took first after hitting a hard ground ball to left field and Joey Gutierrez followed sending the ball streaking to the opposite side. Gossler advanced to third and remained there until two outs were on the board.
The Bulldogs were aggressive in their base running, and as Gutierrez stole second, Gossler tried to knot the score but was caught stealing home to end the inning.
Hermiston would go on to leave three more on base throughout the game, while Heritage slowly built up their lead in the third, fifth and sixth innings. However, each run was preventable.
“We’re giving up unearned runs when we should be giving up earned runs and errors are killing us,” Moore said. “In that first game we give up five unearned runs and we lose 5-0 because we played sloppy defense, vice versa, we played better defense the second game versus the first game.”
The Bulldogs were cleaner their next time out, committing only two errors compared to the four from Game 1 and nearly quadrupled their offensive output from four hits to 14.
“I’m pretty happy with the way we finished the second game,” Moore added.
On the offensive end, the victory was highlighted by an inside-the-park home run from Landon Jones.
After an RBI single from Wyatt Noland put Hermiston up 1-0 in the first inning, the two teams were scoreless nearing the halfway point. But in the bottom of the fourth, the Bulldogs extended their lead and would reach their eventual game-winning score.
Joel Mendez started off the five-run inning with an RBI to center field. Jordan Ramirez followed with a ground ball to shortstop that gave Garron Anderson enough time to score.
Now up 3-0 with two outs and two on, Landon Jones stepped up to the plate. Prior to his appearance in the fourth, Jones had reached base during his two previous at bats – the first on an infield single and the second after being hit by a pitch.
This time, Jones’ line drive went deep down the right-field line, passed the glove of the Timberwolf and cleared the bases.
“That’s one of the most exciting plays in baseball,” Moore said.
Moore added that Jones’ quickness and the team’s willingness to continue their aggressive base running put Hermiston in the position to execute the inside-the-park home run.
The heavy hitting continued as Noland was a perfect 4-for-4 at bat and Lukas Tolan hit two doubles going 3-for-4 at the plate.
Tolan transitioned that power when he was toeing the rubber. His performance on the mound was the highlight of the Bulldogs’ defensive efforts. The four-year varsity player went the distance, throwing a complete game and only giving up four runs while striking out six and walking three.
“It’s a situation where we have a week off and I want Luke to extend a little bit,” Moore said. “I kept on asking him in between innings, ‘Luke, how are you feeling?’ And he goes, ‘I want it.’ When a kid is throwing that well and he wants to finish the ball game, I’m going to ride him into it. Tonight he went the distance.”
Hermiston will return to the diamond Saturday when the Bulldogs host the Hood River Valley Eagles for their league opener.
R H E
HERITAGE 011 021 0 — 5 6 1
HERMISTON 000 000 0 — 0 4 4
(HERI) B. Youkon. (HERM) C. Schwirse, G. Anderson (6) — . W — Youkon, L — Schwirse.
2B — C Hendy (HERI).
R H E
HERITAGE 000 000 0 — 0 4 3
HERMISTON 100 500 X — 6 14 2
(HERI) N. Bacon, D. Gange (5). (HERM) L. Tolan. W — Tolan, L — Bacon.
HR — L. Jones (HERM). 2B — L. Tolan 2 (HERM).