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River Dogs go 3-1 in pool play at Wood Bat Classic

by IAN BIVONA
Sports Reporter | July 8, 2024 3:20 AM

MEAD – The 18U AAA Columbia Basin River Dogs went 3-1 in pool play at last week’s Spokane Wood Bat Classic, falling one game shy of reaching Saturday’s bracket play.

Columbia Basin wrapped up pool play with a 5-3 win over Lakeside Recovery, capitalizing off a four-run top of the fourth inning.

“We played well this weekend,” head coach Quintz Whitaker said. “Wish we would have picked up another win versus another really good team, but overall, I’m happy with where we’re at.”

The first three innings against Lakeside fell scoreless, despite Columbia Basin posting runners in scoring position in both the top of the second and third innings. The draw was broken when right fielder Peyton Juarez scored on a steal of home in the top of the fourth, taking advantage of Lakeside attempting to rundown shortstop Cruz Martinez.

“Before the play was even called, because it was called steal, I was thinking in my head ‘If I can stay in the pickle right there, I know that gives my teammate a chance to score, before I got picked off I waved and told (Juarez) to go,” Martinez said. “I just tried to stay in as long as I could, and once he scored, it’s just me trying to survive and get on base.”

Martinez survived the rundown, getting to second base. The scoring play came during an at-bat by first baseman Skylar Bryant, who went on to hit a two-run home run during the same at-bat to push the lead to 3-0. 

“I was seeing a bunch of the same pitches, so I just chose my pitch — wherever this pitch is, I’m going to hit it hard and I’m going to hit it far somewhere,” Bryant said. 

Three at-bats later, leadoff hitter Blaine Macdonald hit an RBI double to give the River Dogs a 4-0 lead.

“I think that’s what our team runs on — energy and confidence,” Martinez said. “When stuff like that happens it really boosts us and gives us confidence, that’s how we win games. But that’s also what kills us sometimes when we don’t have any of that — luckily we had that today and got that W.”

Lakeside got three runs back in the bottom of that same inning, taking advantage of two River Dog walks. In the top of the fifth, Martinez drove in Juarez to add an insurance run. Columbia Basin held on for a 5-3 win, finishing second in the Mt. Spokane pod at the tournament.

“We lost early, there was a couple of errors that cost us the game,” Bryant said. “We came into this game knowing that we’re going to field properly and if we hit the ball, good things are going to happen. That was exactly what we did today.”

The tournament opened Thursday with a 3-1 win over the Missoula Impact Baseball Club, where Juarez led in both hits and RBI with two apiece. On the mound, pitcher Nolan Crawford pitched all seven innings surrendering three hits, one earned run, one walk and striking out four batters.

“Nolan Crawford came out and pitched really well,” Whitaker said. “Nolan’s had a few really solid outings — he didn’t get a ton of innings during high school, but I’ve been really proud of the way he’s been able to come out and attack guys. He’s gotten better and better as the summer’s gone on.”

On Thursday afternoon against Mt. Spokane AAA, Columbia Basin scored eight runs in the top of the first and another five runs in the top of the second, eventually winning the game 14-3. The River Dogs scored 14 runs off of 10 hits, with Macdonald and first baseman Hayden Meek leading with two hits apiece. Meek had a team-high three RBI in the win.

“Guys came out swinging the bats in that game,” Whitaker said. “I think we had seven guys on before they recorded an out, and five of them were base hits … it was good to see us coming out and getting a win against a solid squad.”

Columbia Basin’s lone loss came to the Okotoks Dawgs, who scored three runs in the top of the sixth to claim a 5-3 win in comeback fashion. Designated hitter Jett Lewallen, who drove in all three runs in the game, put the River Dogs up 3-2 in the bottom of the fifth inning.

“Teams are going to battle, and they came back,” Whitaker said. “We gave them something, they take advantage of a bunt, we don’t record an out. Then we get another one, they hit it down the left field line — we’ve got to be able to make plays, and when we don’t another team is going to capitalize.”

Whitaker said this tournament was the first time this summer the River Dogs have had their full roster available.

“This was the first time we’ve really been healthy and had our full roster,” Whitaker said. “(Thursday), the team that I rolled out, I was like, ‘This is our varsity squad — this is the squad I was hoping to have all summer when we started putting this group together.’ Between injuries, travel and graduations, it finally felt like a summer game and a summer series versus trying to have to fight and put things together.”

The River Dogs took on the CDA Lumbermen on Saturday afternoon at Thorco Field in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, but final scores were not available in time for press deadline. Columbia Basin (8-22) now prepares to host the River Dog Memorial Tournament this weekend, running from Friday through Sunday at Big Bend Community College.

“Moving forward for these last 10 games or so, I feel like we’re in a really good spot where we have something to build off of after a strong weekend,” Whitaker said. 

Playing the junior division at the Wood Bat Classic were the AA 18U River Dogs, who went 0-3 in pool play and took on East Valley Saturday afternoon. Final scores were not available in time for press deadline.

Ian Bivona may be reached at ibivona@columbiabasinherald.com.

    River Dog pitcher Kollin Babst unleashes a pitch against Lakeside Recovery Friday afternoon at Mt. Spokane High School in Mead.
 
 
    River Dog second baseman Anthony Gutierrez rounds third base before scoring in the bottom of the fourth inning against Lakeside Recovery on Friday.
 
 
    River Dog third baseman Nolan Betz waits for a pitch in the top of the sixth inning against Lakeside Recovery on Friday.