Eugene – The Post 20 Dirtbags baseball team finished its final week of regular season baseball with a 14-4 defeat at Eugene.
The Challengers started things off with a run in the first inning off a Dirtbags error.
Opening up the second inning, the Dirtbags clinched one run across the plate, followed by six runs for the Challengers.
From there, the Dirtbags struggled to keep up with the Challengers’ offensive onslaught.
Andrew Zellner took the loss on the mound for the Dirtbags, surrendering seven runs on seven hits over two innings, walking one. Hector Amador threw two and two-thirds innings in relief out of the bullpen.
Kaden Reidhead, Connor Laeng and Derek Maiben each collected one hit for the team.
The Dirtbags had an explosive victorious series on July 16-17 against the Whitnell Dodgers over a two-day, four-game span.
Opening play on July 16 at Western Oregon University, the Dirtbags stole a 2-3 victory with a late lead in the game, the win coming after a shaky tournament at Corvallis.
“I think we started (the season) off really good, and then that Corvallis series wasn’t our best all-around baseball, but we’re back to where we were at the beginning and we’re just having fun,” said catcher Emiliano Alarcon.
The game was knotted 2-2 at the bottom of the sixth when Jacob Maiben singled one a zero-for-one count, scoring one run to nab the win.
On the mound, Jaret Stewart struck out five, while allowing two hits and one run.
Jacob Maiben led the team by going three-for-three at bats.
To close out the evening, the Dirtbags followed up with a 2-0 shutout.
Cameron Hagan was credited with the no-hitter win on the mound; and Derek Maiben was two-for-two at the plate to lead the Dirtbags on offense.
On July 17, the Dirtbags faced the Dodgers at Willamette University’s baseball field to run away with two more victories, winning 8-3 and 9-7.
Those wins gave the team an automatic in at the state championship games, said head coach James Leach, which begin July 27 in Klamath Falls.
“I think things went very well,” Leach said at the end of the doubleheader opener on July 17. “We executed in situations where we needed to. I told the guys early on that we were going to do a little more in this game, such as push bunts, drags, hit-and-runs, just to apply pressure to the other team, to force them to make plays and we did that today.”
The Dirtbags started things off in the first game with three runs in the second inning from Connor Laeng, Noah Juarez, and Erik Swanson.
In the third and fourth innings, the Dodgers began putting pressure on the Dirtbags by knotting the score 3-3, but the Dirtbags responded with another run in the fifth, a homerun out of the park by Jacob Maiben with the sixth, and two more runs in the seventh stanza to take the game.
“This game went good,” said Alarcon. “These guys are tough; they’re a pretty good team, but we stuck with it, we played our brand, which is good.”
Pitcher Eric Kessler agreed with his teammate.
“It felt like we were in control the entire game, even when things got out of hand,” he said. “We had a really good grasp on the game and kept control of what we were doing and didn’t let them get ahead of us.”
Kessler pitched five innings, allowing three hits and three runs while striking out two and walking one.
Hector Amador threw two innings in relief out of the bullpen.
The Dirtbags collected 10 hits, with Juarez and Maiben each manufacturing multiple hits throughout the game. Juarez led at-bats, going three-for-four.
In the second game, the Dirtbags took a late lead and scored two runs in the seventh stanza to untie the 7-7 score and win the game 9-7, despite allowing the Dodgers to draw four runs in the second inning.
Kaleb Kantola took the win on the mound, surrendering five runs on five hits over four and a third innings, and walking one. Ruben Cedillo threw two and two-thirds innings in relief out of the bullpen.
On July 18, the Dirtbags defeated the Portland Barbers at Ron Tonkin in Hillsboro, 16-14.
The team’s record as it heads into playoffs is 26-7-2.
It’s been a long season for the Dirtbags, but Leach is pleased with how the team has persevered through what will be a 42-game schedule.
“The season has been good,” he said. “We progressively, from the start until now, just keep getting better, making strides. Last week (at Corvallis) was our biggest mental lapse, a physical lapse in a sense, and I even took that upon some of the coaches, that we mentally had a lapse. And then we had a couple days of practice before this series (at Willamette) and reiterated our approach and our plan and getting back to playing our brand of baseball, and that’s something I think we do very well.”