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Playoff Aspirations Receive Early Boost

The Central baseball team sweeps two games from Philomath.

INDEPENDENCE -- Central is hoping to return to the baseball playoffs this season for the first time in five years.

The Panthers took a nice step in that direction March 30 when they began Oregon West Conference play by winning 9-3 and 8-6 at Philomath.

Both games were played at Philomath because of poor field conditions at Central.

Pitcher Austin Bergman set the tone for Central in the opener, carrying a no-hitter into the fifth inning. He ended up allowing two hits and two runs with two walks and 10 strikeouts.

"We played really well," Central coach Kraig Davis said. "We started Bergman in the first game, and he was on. I don't think he threw more than three or four balls above the belt all day long. He really kept the ball down. His breaking ball was working really well. He wore out a little at the end, but he pitched well."

Marcus McArdle led off the second inning with a home run to make it 1-0. Bergman doubled the lead an inning later with another solo shot.

McArdle walked and scored on a Sean Deary double in the fourth and added a two-run homer during a four-run outburst in the fifth. Chris Hinds singled and scored Central's final run in the seventh.

The Panthers trailed 6-3 after three innings of the second game but turned things around by scoring four times in the top of the fourth.

Hinds started the rally with a single and scored one out later on Joe Leon's home run.

Donavan Hampton walked and went to third on a double by Tanner Omlid. Bergman singled in both runners, giving the Panthers a 7-6 lead. Back-to-back base hits by Branden Cutsforth and McArdle pushed home Bergman.

Omlid earned the win with five innings of one-hit relief pitching. He faced 17 batters while on the mound and started a pair of double plays on comebackers.

"He had one three-pitch inning," Davis said. "He doesn't throw real hard, but he's got this knuckleball that he uses as a change-up. He made them hit the ball to get on base. He's so athletic and fields his position so well. He started two double plays and just missed a third. He was real efficient."

McArdle had a two-run single in the first and eventually scored himself on a balk, giving Central a quick 3-0 lead.

McArdle went five-for-seven in the series with four runs scored and six RBIs.

The Panthers next will face Cascade of Turner. Games are set for April 5 at Cascade (results unavailable) and Thursday, April 7, at Central.

"They've really been up-and-down," Davis said. "They got 10-runned twice by Newport, but then they came back Saturday and 10-runned Junction City twice. They're always competitive. They have some good athletes. It should be a good series."

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