Dawgs take one from Pendleton

Hermiston's Tommy Bevington hauls in a fly ball during the Dawgs' 11-5 win in the second game of a doubleheader Monday in Pendleton. Hermiston lost the first game, 10-0, but managed to take the second game to stay tied with the Bucks at 8-2 in the Columbia River Conference.

Hermiston’s Justin Jones knew he wasn’t himself in the first game of a crucial league doubleheader against Pendleton.

After going hitless in three tries in the opener, Jones blasted a first-inning 2-run homer to ignite the Bulldog offense en route to an 11-5 win Monday at Bob White Field in Pendleton.

Hermiston lost the first game of the league twinbill, 10-0.

Jones ended up going 3 for 5 with four RBIs in the nightcap to help the Bulldogs earn their first win over Pendleton since the final game of the 2008 season.

“I got more dialed in,” Jones said of his performance. “It was a long morning, and I had too much on my mind. The second game I just cleared my mind.”

Hermiston head coach Brent Mattson, who has coached Jones for all three years he’s been at the helm, said that Jones’ transformation from spotty contributor to big-time clutch player is more mental than physical.

“He’s just matured so much,” Mattson said. “The Justin Jones of years past probably would have been mentally defeated after Game 1. But he’s made so many strides to come back and compete.”

Not only did Jones shine at the plate in the finale, but he made the defensive play of the day in the seventh inning.

On an Ike Van Pelt pop fly behind second base, Jones raced back toward the right-center field gap to track it down. He glanced back and made the decision to lay out in a full-extension dive to snag the ball for the first out of the seventh inning.

“I squeezed my glove as hard as I could,” Jones said when he made the highlight-reel grab. “I wasn’t going to let it get away.”

To preserve the win, Hermiston relief pitcher Tommy Bevington made his 15th appearance of the season and pitched 2.2 innings to earn his seventh save of the year.

Even though Bevington has appeared on the hill in more than 70 percent of Hermiston’s game, Mattson said they’ve been able to utilize the right-hander because he keeps his pitch count so low. Coming into this game, he averaged 14.4 pitches per inning, so he’s getting in and getting out of innings with fairly good efficiency.

“You look at his appearances and you think ‘Holy cow, abuse,’ but he’s able to keep his pitch count down so we’ve been able to run him out there time and time again.”

Pendleton’s bats were held in check in the nightcap by start Jacob Almaguer and relievers Tyler Schwirse and Bevington for the most part, but were able to keep it close for most of the game.

Tommy Lane and Van Pelt hit monsterous home runs for the Bucks to stay within striking distance. Lane’s 2-run blast came in the second inning off Almaguer and Van Pelt’s tape-measure solo shot was an inning later.

After giving up the blast to Lane, Almaguer worked a little magic in the second to minimize the damage.

He gave up a double to Pendleton catcher Daniel Lebsock, struck out Sean Van Pelt then issued walks to Chaz Madsen and Lane Richards to load the bases.

Almaguer broke off a beautiful breaking ball to freeze Pendleton’s Reese Merriman on a called third strike to end the inning and Pendleton’s biggest threat of the ballgame.

In the opener, it was all Pendleton. Bucks’ ace Wyatt Whitten tossed a gem in a complete-game performance, which ended up being five innings dur to the 10-run mercy rule.

Whitten struck out nine and gave up three hits and didn’t walk anyone to run his record to 8-0 on the year.

Richards smashed a walk-off, 3-run homer in the bottom of the fifth to make the score 10-0 and put the opener in the books.

After Tuesday’s matchup with Pendleton at Weber Field, which concluded after the press deadline for Wednesday’s Herald, the clubs will meet in the final regular season game at 5 p.m. May 13 at Weber Field.

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