By David Bashore
Herald sports editor
Central Point Hermiston continued playing their best baseball of the season, but even that was not enough to advance to the 5A quarterfinals as they bowed out to #3 Crater, 11-5 on Tuesday.
The Comets (21-5) scored six runs in the first two innings as they got off to a flying start in their first game of the playoffs.
After going down in order to start the game, Bulldog (12-16) starter Daniel Ojeda gave up three runs after getting the first two batters out in the home half of the first inning.
A pair of bloop singles preceded a three-run home run, and Crater was off to the races.
Hermiston countered with three runs in the top of the second inning to even the affair, highlighted by Al Rosales' two-run double with the bases loaded.
The Comets got all three runs back in the bottom of the second, however, and this time there would be no comeback for Hermiston.
"We took the momentum from (Crater)," Hermiston head coach Greg Kaatz said about their three run burst in the second. "But we gave it right back (in the bottom of the inning)."
After trading single runs, the Bulldogs got within 7-5 heading into the sixth inning, and looked like they had every chance of springing the upset.
A walk and two perfectly-placed base-hit bunts led to four Crater runs in the bottom of the sixth, however, and that was that.
Hermiston loaded the bases in their final stand in the top of the seventh, but were unable to scrap their way back into the mix.
"It looked like we could give ourselves a chance if we got through the sixth inning," Kaatz said. "But we ended up giving up four runs in the sixth."
Optimism had been high coming off of the Bulldogs' most complete game of the season, a first-round 8-2 win at home over Lebanon last Friday.
Nevertheless, despite playing near-flawless baseball and traveling quite well despite making what amounts to the longest road-trip 5A has to offer outside of Pendleton to Ashland, it was not to be for the Bulldogs as they ran into a superior team.
"I don't think the travel had anything to do with (the loss)," Kaatz said. "The kids traveled really well, better than I expected. Crater was jut a better team, and without question they're a top-five team in the state."
Despite the disappointing end to the season, Kaatz said that there was a lot to be proud of for a team that made the state playoffs for the first time in five season after being near the Intermountain Conference basement the last few years.
"(The season) was surprising, but at the same time I expected it a little bit," Kaatz said. "We definitely had some pieces and some solid defense. The kids put it together and bought in. We played a little better each game, and we were playing our best baseball at the end of the season and into the playoffs which was great to see. We had a good season, and we have nothing to be ashamed of."
David Bashore can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.