McNary sophomore Cooper Cripe scores the game-winning run as the Celtics defeated Crescent Valley 4-3 (KEIZERTIMES/Matt Rawlings).
On senior night, it was a sophomore that came through for the McNary baseball team with the game on the line.
With the score tied 3-3 in the bottom of the eighth, Noah Fischer hit a bloop single that landed just to the right of the left field foul line. The base hit scored Cooper Cripe from third base and gave the Celtics the 4-3 walk-off victory against Crescent Valley on Friday, May 7.
“I have had a few walk-offs before, but never at the varsity level. It is such a surreal feeling,” Fischer said.
“The bottom line is when you put the ball in play you give yourself a chance,” McNary head coach Larry Keeker added. “It was a good victory for us. We have been playing better baseball and the results have shown that.”
While Fischer was the hero, the key for McNary — who trailed for almost the entire game — was their pitching staff, who gave up just one earned run over eight innings.
“Our pitching was good all night. It was a great outing from all of our guys,” McNary right-hander Eben Mayer said.
Crescent Valley got a pair of runs with two outs in the top of the second after an error by Fischer at third base. But the Celtics were able to get a run back in the bottom half of the frame thanks to an RBI-groundout from Aaron Nease.
Despite struggling with a blister on his throwing hand, McNary starter Dante Olivo threw 3.1 innings — his longest outing of the season — for the Celtics and didn't give up an earned run.
“Dante had an awesome start for us. He isn't coming out if it wasn't for the (injury) to his throwing hand,” Keeker said.
Nease replaced Olivo on the bump with one on and one out in the top of the fourth. The senior right-hander got into some trouble as the Raiders got two runners in scoring position, but Nease got out of the jam unscathed. However, he was not as fortunate the following inning.
Crescent Valley led off the top of the fifth with a triple, which was soon followed with an RBI-single to put the Raiders on top 3-1. To make matters worse, Nease had to be taken out of the game, after finishing the inning, due to a knee injury.
Whenever McNary has been in a pinch this season, they have turned to Mayer, a senior with a quirky delivery and a filthy slider. And once again, Mayer stepped up for his squad.
Mayer's slider was too much for the Raiders lineup to handle as the sidearm-throwing righty only allowed one runner on base over three innings.
“That is my best pitch,” Mayer said of his slider. “I have been working on it all year. Having that pitch to keep hitters off balance for the whole count is really what makes me effective.”
“Eben has been lights out on the mound all year. He came in and just competed and battled like he always does,” Keeker added.
In the bottom of the sixth, a sacrifice fly from Ben Allen cut Crescent Valley's lead to 3-2. It appeared that McNary was going to tie the game after Carter Hawley reached on an error by the shortstop, but a miscommunication between Trevor Thompson, who was at second before the ball was hit, and third base coach Jordan Keeker, resulted in Thompson being back-picked at third to end the inning.
But as they entered the bottom of seventh trailing by a run, the Celtics refused to give in. Back-to-back one-out singles by Gunner Smedema and Mayer began the threat. After Zane Aicher reached on an error to load the bases, Smedema scored on a wild pitch moments later to tie the game.
The Celtics left the bags packed to end the frame, putting the game into extra innings. But after Mayer got a 1-2-3 inning in the top of the eighth, McNary was able to push one across for the win thanks to some clutch hitting.
In his first at-bat of the game, sophomore Cooper Cripe leadoff the frame with a pinch-hit single up the middle to get things going.
“Cooper hasn't had a ton of at-bats at the varsity level, but he stepped up against a guy throwing in the mid-80s and rifled one up the middle,” Keeker said.
Cripe was bunted over to second by Allen and then got to third when Carter Hawley reached on an error by the shortstop, which brought Fischer to the dish.
“I am only a sophomore, but I have been waiting for this opportunity my whole life. I just got up there ready to pounce on the first pitch,” Fischer said.
Due to early substitutions and a late-game injury, Crescent Valley was forced to play the seventh and eighth innings with only eight players in the field. While the Raiders disadvantage didn't come into play in the seventh, it ended up costing them on the last at-bat of the game.
Fischer hit a high and shallow fly ball down the line in left field. With their normal three outfielders, Crescent Valley might have been able to make a play on the ball. But since there were only two players in the outfield, the ball fell harmlessly to the grass with nobody around, allowing Cripe to come in and score the winning run.
“To our team's credit, they rallied when a number of our guys went down. It was a really bizarre game, but I am super happy with the way the kids battled. It was truly a team effort,” Keeker said.
McNary travels to Corvallis for a 5 p.m. game on Tuesday, May 11.
Matt Rawlings: [email protected]