NORTH BEND — Klamath Falls pulled within a game of the title in the 14-year-old prep division at the Southern Oregon State Babe Ruth tournament on Friday, beating the host South Coast Rebels 16-1 in a game shortened to five innings by the mercy rule.
Nathan Baker was dominant for four innings on the mound for Klamath Falls and one big inning gave the squad a huge advantage on the way to the win.
“I think we did really good,” Baker said. “Our bats were alive.”
Meanwhile, South Coast had no success against Baker, who did not give up a hit in his four innings and struck out eight, six on called third strikes.
“I felt good,’ Baker said. “I warmed up well. I threw strikes.”
The only South Coast hit in the game was a single to right in the fifth by Jack Burgmeier.
Kalmath Falls got on the board first in the second inning when Rowdy Gordon and Noah Bailey hit back-to-back doubles. The chance for a bigger inning ended when Bailey was out on the plate trying to score on a grounder back to pitcher David Roberts, who recorded strikeouts for the other two outs in the inning.
Klamath Falls added two more runs in the third, with help from the host team. Sam McKeen was safe on a dropped third strike and scored when Jaden Backer hit a grounder that got under the third baseman’s glove and into left field for an error. Backer later scored on a two-out single to center by Gordon.
South Coast got its run in the bottom of the third without a hit. Noah Dotson walked, stole second and advanced to third and home on wild pitches. But Baker got the three outs in the inning all on called third strikes.
Klamath Falls blew the game open in the fourth, when it scored 10 runs with just two hits and help from eight South Coast errors, to go with six walks and two hit batters. Twice, Klamath Falls runners were picked off first base, but errors allowed them to advance, and an assortment of other bad throws and misplayed hit balls added to the South Coast woes.
“The first three innings, we were right there,” South Coast manager Erick Kirchner said. “David Roberts was incredible the first three innings. Then he got a little tired.”
Klamath Falls added three runs in the fifth to round out the scoring. By the end of the game, Gordon had a double and single, three runs and an RBI. McKeen, Backer, Baker, Diego Moya and Hunter White each scored two runs. Leo Ahult drove in three with a pair of singles.
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After the game, the South Coast coaching staff encouraged the players to stay positive and put the mistakes behind them.
“They’re a good group of kids,” Kirchner said. “They took it on the chin. They’ll come back tomorrow — I’m sure of it.”
If South Coast wins the Saturday game, the teams will play Sunday for the state title. Klamath Falls can clinch the title by winning Saturday.
The good news for South Coast is that regardless of the outcome Saturday, the squad is guaranteed a trip to the regional tournament in West Linn since the loser of this weekend’s tournament will be the alternate into the regional after one of the other regions opted not to send a squad.
That was one of the messages from the coaches to the players: Get better every game and every day in preparation for the regional tournament.
The squad has players from five different communities and has had only a handful of practices, Kirchner said.
Klamath Falls, meanwhile, has been working together for three or four weeks, looking forward to the trip to Clyde Allen Field and a chance to get out of the heat of the Klamath Basin.
“I love the coast,” said Baker. “I love the weather.”
Klamath Falls 16, South Coast 1
Nathan Baker, Rowdy Gordon (5) and Sam McKeen; David Roberts, Drake Rogers (4), Ethan Aaron (4), Jack Burgmeier (5) and Carter Brock. 2B—KF: Gordon, Noah Bailey.