Challengers Defeat Lobos, Improve to 8-0
The Challengers looked to be hitting their stride as they swept the Tigard Lobos in a double header on Wednesday in imperfect conditions. Wind was a factor throughout the evening, throwing dust in the eyes of the batters throughout the first game and numbing players’ hands in the second, leading to an increase in bobbled catches for both teams as nightfall approached. But judging by the final scores of 5-2 and 7-1, it’ll take a lot more than a cool breeze to slow this team down.
“They finally came out and played like a pack of wild dogs,” Challengers coach Todd Zeigler said of his players after the game. “They all have a bunch of talent.”
On the other side of the field, Lobos manager Chris Campbell also offered some praise for the Challengers’ performance. “I think we need this kind of competition to get us ready to play Yakima,” he said. When asked about his own players’ efforts, Campbell said they were “not bad,” noting that this was only their third game of the season.
The first game began to pick up in the bottom of the second inning thanks to RBIs by Travis Boggs and Erik Long. Mike Ralston added another RBI in bottom of the fifth, followed by a triple by Ryan Land in the bottom of the sixth that resulted in two more runs, making the score 5-0 at the beginning of the seventh inning. “It was a great team effort all around,” Land said after the game. “We kept the intensity up the whole game.”
The Lobos’ Jacob Storedahl and Tyler Ratcliffe shared pitching duties throughout, with Storedahl playing the first four innings before being relieved by Ratcliffe in the fifth. Both pitched erratically at times – at one point in the bottom of the third Storedahl walked three batters in a row, the first after hitting him with a pitch – but overall they turned in respectable performances.
Meanwhile, Brett Nielsen was putting on a pitching clinic for the Challengers. After allowing a base hit at the top of the second, Nielsen took over the game.
Over the next four innings, Nielsen held the Lobos to just twelve at-bats, striking out eight batters and allowed no runners to get on base.
However, in the seventh inning Nielsen began to show signs of fatigue and gave up two walks before being relieved by Zach Eyster.
The Lobos did their best to take advantage of the situation, with Tucker Spooner and Jacob Storedahl scoring RBIs before Eyster closed the game, making the final score 5-2.
As the sun began to set behind the stands along the first baseline, game two got off to a brisk start with pitchers Mike Ralston of the Challengers and Beau Ueland of the Lobos trading strikeouts for the first two and a half innings.
Then in the bottom of the third the Challengers’ batters began to make some headway, starting with a double by Erik Long. Two at-bats later, Long crossed home plate thanks to a single by Ben Giland, followed not long thereafter by two more RBIs scored on a double by Cooper Stiles.
“The team’s starting to pick up,” said Long afterwards, referring to the Challengers’ play over their last few games. “We’re finally playing complete games.”
Ueland pitched gamely throughout, but after Giland and Jacob DeZarn added an RBI apiece in the bottom of the fourth to make the score 6-0, the Lobos made the decision to relieve him.
Kyler Heaston pitched the fifth inning, giving up one run on a hit by Erik Long, and Tucker Campbell took over in the sixth and efficiently pitched his way through the Challengers’ last three batters.
Mike Ralston pitched the entire second game for the Challengers. While not as dominating as his teammate Nielsen was in the first game, Ralston still acquitted himself well. In the first six innings, he struck out eight of the twenty at-bats he faced, giving up no runs and allowing only three runners to get on base. “They have a good pitcher,” said Lobos second baseman Keenan Hatfield of Ralston after the game. “We didn’t make the plays we needed to.”
Ralston faltered somewhat in the final inning, giving up an RBI and allowing three runners to get on base, but still managed to close out the game before the Lobos could do too much damage. The RBI, scored on a beautiful hit by Tucker Spooner that managed to stay just this side of the foul line, kept the Lobos from being shut out completely in the second game, 7-1.