WINSTON — Sutherlin High School’s baseball team has found plenty of ways to win by large margins in the past two weeks. On Tuesday, the Bulldogs showed they can win the close ones, too.
Steven Hagar had a pair of RBI singles and Payton Hope pitched 4 2/3 sharp innings for the 11th-ranked Bulldogs, who turned away a bases-loaded threat from arch-rival Douglas in the final inning to prevail 4-1 in a Class 3A Special District 4 game at Withers Field.
“That was big,” said Hagar, whose run-scoring singles provided all the offense Sutherlin needed. “We all talked before the game and knew this was a game where we had to be ready to crunch down. I think if we win the next one we can secure a playoff spot, but I think this team is capable of doing more than just clinching a playoff spot.”
That’s a far cry from what Sutherlin’s standpoint was at the beginning of the season when they opened the schedule 3-7, though that early slate included second-ranked Pleasant Hill and Class 4A programs Elmira and Cottage Grove.
Since then, the Bulldogs (10-7, 7-0 SD4) have won seven consecutive games, including a pair of run-rule victories over St. Mary’s of Medford and three convincing wins against Cascade Christian.
Not to say Tuesday’s game could have been more of the same.
“We have a little trouble running the bases sometimes, and I think there were some spots where we could have been in a better position to score,” Sutherlin coach Bret Prock said. “At the same time … we can look back at this and tell them they saw (Douglas’) best guy and found a way to fight through it and hold off a threat.”
Hope struck out seven with no walks, allowing only an unearned run in the bottom of the fourth inning. It set the Bulldogs up for victory in spite of a solid outing from Douglas right-hander Noah Burke, who scattered nine hits with two strikeouts and two walks in 6 2/3 innings.
The Trojans (6-9, 2-5), however, were limited to five hits and left eight runners on base, which didn’t sit well with coach Ron Quimby afterward.
“The kids didn’t let down and they played hard all the way through. They just can’t hit the baseball,” said Quimby, whose team has lot seven of its past nine games. “When you look in the scorebook and you have that many Ks, it’s pretty clear you have to do better hitting the baseball. That’s where the conversation ends.”
Sutherlin jumped ahead third inning when Tanner Marlin drew a one-out walk, went to second on a single from Hope and, two batters later, scored on Hagar’s first RBI single of the day. Douglas knotted the score at 1-1 in the fourth on a run-scoring single from Luke Fowler, but Hagar’s RBI single in the fifth, which Cade Meisner followed by scoring from third base on a passed ball, put the Bulldogs ahead to stay.
Douglas threatened in the seventh, though, when Luke Fowler reached first on a dropped third strike and advanced to third after Austin West was hit by a pitch and Cole Waldron reached on an error. But Meisner, who pitched struck out six in 2 2/3 scoreless relief innings, struck out Douglas’ Eric Hogue to end the game and scoring threat.
Andy Schofield scored the only run of the game for Douglas. Byron Baker and Hope, who was gunned down at the plate trying to score by Douglas left fielder Seth Christian, also had two hits apiece for Sutherlin.
The Bulldogs are tied for first with top-ranked Brookings-Harbor (16-1, 7-0).
Douglas and Sutherlin finish their three-game series Friday afternoon with a doubleheader in Sutherlin.
Sutherlin 001 021 0 — 4 9 3
Douglas 000 100 0 — 1 5 1
Hope, Meisner (5) and Peterman; N. Burke, Jones (7) and Baker. WP — Hope. LP — Burke.