Cougars start off splitting a double header

John Michaels
IVN Contributing Writer

No. 3, junior Tim Wood is forced out at second, Friday, March 15 at home.

The Illinois Valley baseball team opened their season splitting a doubleheader against the combined Bandon/Pacific team Friday in Cave Junction.
The Cougars dropped the opener 9-4, before rallying to take the nightcap with a walk-off 4-3 win.
Bandon/Pacific came into the game with the advantage of having played a game already. The Tigers had destroyed St. Mary’s 23-0 Tuesday. They were ranked No. 5 in the state in the 2A/1A Baseball coaches’ poll and had received one vote as the top team in the state.
“We really didn’t play well in game one,” said I.V. coach Jesse Dugas. “But we reset and played much better in game two. For playing for the first time this year, I thought that Dylan Beals and Braeden Lapora pitched great.”
Bandon wasted no time jumping on top as the first three batters all reached base and scored in the first inning. The Tigers struck for two more in the second when the lead-off and second hitters again reached base and came around to score.
Illinois Valley cut the chipped away at the lead with Talen Schaffer scoring in the first, Jeremiah Izzo, runner for catcher Keegan Russell, scoring in both the second and fourth innings to cut the lead to 5-3. But fielding miscues in the sixth inning allowed Bandon to score four more runs and really put the game away. Jackson Tincher scored the Cougars final run in the seventh.
I.V.’s offensive leader in the first game was Russell. He went 2-for-2 and also walked. Tincher had the only other Cougar hit in the game.
Illinois Valley reversed its fortunes with a walk-off win in the second game. In the nightcap, it was I.V.’s turn to score first. The Cougars also struck for three runs in the first as Schaffer, Kaiden Green and Izzo, again running for Russell all scored. Russell doubled home both Schaffer and Green. Izzo, as the courtesy runner, moved over to third and scored on Dylan Beals’ ground ball.
The 3-0 lead held up until the Tigers rallied to tie the game with three runs in the sixth. It looked for a while as though Bandon might rally to win the game. But Kaiden Green got a strike-out with two runners on to end the sixth. Then Lapora, after getting the first two outs loaded the bases in the seventh before inducing the last hitter to ground out.
Tim Wood led off the seventh for the Cougars and it was the Tigers turn to make a mistake. Wood struck out, but the catcher dropped the third strike and Wood made it to first safely. Izzo came in to run for Wood, as a pinch runner and not a courtesy runner. After a ground out, Bandon made the decision to load the bases and hope for a force out, rather than face the top of the Cougars order where any single would most likely end the game.
After Shaffer and Jozia Williams were intentionally walked, a single did end the game. Zack Dugas lined a 1-1 pitch on a rope to right field for a walk-off single scoring Izzo with the game winner.
Dylan Beals pitched five innings of shut-out ball for IV, but did not get credit for the decision. Beals struck out 10 and walked two. Lapora picked up the win after pitching the seventh.
Russell, Dugas and Tincher collected hits for the Cougs.
The Cougars have a slow week in this last week before Spring Break. I.V. hosts the Oakridge Warriors for a non-league game Tuesday. The Cougars will then be off until the Monday of Spring Break when they will host the Lowell Devils in a doubleheader at 1 and 3:30 p.m.