NORTH BEND — The South Coast All-Stars kept alive their hopes of advancing to the Babe Ruth 13- to 15-year-old regional with a 7-1 win over South Douglas on Saturday at Clyde Allen Field.
The two teams play a winner-take-all game at 10 a.m. Sunday for a spot in the regionals at Camas, Wash, as the Southern Oregon state champions.
South Coast used one big inning and stellar pitching from Landon Croff to stay alive in the best-of-three tournament.
“I feel like we did great,” Croff said, with his only criticism being that the team didn’t spread its scoring out enough.
Unlike Friday, when South Coast errors led to a big inning in the 3-2 South Douglas win, this time it was South Douglas making mistakes in a big inning.
South Coos trailed 1-0 when it came up in the bottom of the third and led 7-1 when South Douglas finally got out of the inning.
Merrick Henderson walked to start the inning and Isaac Garza hit a single. South Douglas then committed infield errors on consecutive at-bats by Luke Rhodes, Beau Erickson and Croff. Even though Croff was eventually thrown out trying to steal third, the surge continued with Henry Rankin hit by a pitch, Ethan Halpin hitting a single, Jason Garcia putting down a perfect sacrifice bunt, Luke Parry drawing a walk and Henderson finishing the surge with a bad-hop double to left that scored Parry on a bad relay throw that was the fifth error of the inning by South Douglas.
South Douglas starter Jayden Landice needed just 15 pitches combined for the first two innings, but 43 in the third.
Landice settled down and faced the minimum over the final three innings. The only South Coast batter to reach base was then out on a double play.
Croff, meanwhile, was dazzling.
“He’s one of a kind,” said Garcia, the South Coast catcher. “He’s an amazing pitcher.”
South Douglas had gotten its run in the first without a hit. Leadoff batter Justin Jenks was hit by a pitch and eventually scored on a bad throw to third when he was trying to advance all the way from first on a groundout to second.
The rest of the way, Croff was in control. He struck out every South Douglas batter at least once and had eight straight strikeouts between the fourth and sixth innings. In all, he struck out 13 batters and needed just 87 pitches in the complete game.
“I was hitting the corners where they couldn’t touch it and getting my offspeed pitches in the strike zone,” he said.
For the second straight game, South Douglas had just one hit, this time a single to right by Jenks in the third inning.
South Coast, meanwhile, had just the three hits it had in the big inning.
Manager Dan Rankin said the team will try to be more disciplined in Sunday’s game.
“You need to wait for the pitch you like,” he said, adding that too often the South Coast batters swung at the first or second pitch with a result that ultimately wasn’t good.
Of the 18 outs in the six innings South Coast came to the plate, 11 were pop-ups or fly balls.
“We need to keep the bat level,” Croff said.
The good news is South Coast has the chance to do that with another game to play.
Asked if he was confident the team could win, Garcia said, “Definitely.”
Garcia and Croff, and several of their teammates, were part of the 13-year-old South Coast team that made it to the regional tournament in Calgary last summer and they would love another shot at regionals.
“It would be another great experience,” Croff said. “This team plays good together.”
South Coast 7, South Douglas 1
Jayden Landice and Skyler Davis; Landon Croff and Jason Garcia. 2B—SC: Merrick Henderson.