NORTH BEND — When the league leader is in the dugout across the field, mistakes have to be limited.
Unfortunately for North Bend's baseball team, the Bulldogs weren't able to Saturday at Clyde Allen Field against Thurston.
The Colts broke a 6-6 tie with five seventh-inning runs in the opener to win 11-7, then Thurston scored three runs in the third, fourth and sixth to double up the Bulldogs 10-5 in the nightcap.
The losses were potentially costly for North Bend's playoff hopes. The Bulldogs fell to 6-8 in league, tied for fifth place with Willamette and North Eugene, a game behind Crater, with just a home doubleheader against third-place Ashland (9-5) on Thursday remaining on the schedule. North Bend also is 15th in the power rankings, giving the Bulldogs a chance to earn the one Class 5A wild card spot to the playoffs if North Bend isn't able to move up to fourth and get a guaranteed berth.
One or two wins Saturday would have helped tremendously.
“I don’t think pitching-wise we gave them more outs, I think it was more defense,” North Bend coach Brad Horning said. “We had some spots where we did give them more outs and they certainly took advantage of that. Having been clean defensively might’ve let us win one or both those games, but that didn’t happen obviously.”
North Bend, though, kept trying to stay in it. When Thurston scored three in the top of the third during the second game, North Bend got two back in the bottom. When Thurston had three more in the fourth, North Bend got two of those back. When Thurston scored one in the seventh, North Bend got that one back, as well.
But all of North Bend’s answers were insufficient.
Jayden Frank tripled in a pair of runs in the third and started the home seventh with a double. Outside of the 1-2-3 second, North Bend had at least one runner on in each inning in the nightcap, forcing Thurston starter Cade Crist to throw a lot of stress pitches.
But North Bend starter Jake Simmons was constantly throwing stress pitches.
Thurston loaded the bases in the first and second innings, but came away with nothing to show for it. Simmons got a two good defensive plays in the first inning from Lucas Moe at third. First he kept a hard-hit ball in the infield to preserve a run and then he smothered a tricky short hop on a chopper and fired to Corbin White at first for the inning's final out.
In the next inning, Frank had a shoe-string catch on a looper at shortstop and caught Alex Deller off the bag at second for a double play.
Thurston finally broke through in the third. A pair of errors, that could have resulted in a 1-2-3 inning, turned into a two-run double from Ty Kistner, followed by an RBI double from Casen Phillips.
“They’re very physical up and down the lineup,” Horning said. “They extend at-bats and foul a lot of pitches off and make those outs a little tougher.”
Frank tripled with two outs in the bottom half of the frame to score Mane Freeman and Brylee Anderson, who both walked.
In the next inning, North Bend again gave Thurston extra outs and against Thurston turned the mistake into runs. Jacob Riley and Isaiah Burke both walked with one out, then an error in the infield let Riley score from second.
After a popup, Kistner singled in a pair of runs, giving him four RBIs for the afternoon and Thurston a 6-2 lead.
Again, North Bend responded.
Moe, Bridger Holmes and White all singled to load the bases with no outs. Freeman then grounded into a fielder’s choice on a possible double-play ball, but the relay throw back to first got past Decker Steadman at first, giving Holmes time to score from second.
Thurston got three runs on the sixth, two of which were unearned, then Crist singled in a run in the seventh for a 10-4 lead.
Frank doubled to lead off the seventh and scored on a Simmons single. North Bend loaded the bases with two outs, but couldn’t get any more.
In the opener, North Bend scored four first-inning runs on no hits and plated two in the bottom of the sixth to tie the game at 6. But Thurston pulled away in the top of the seventh, getting doubles from Steadman and Josh Moser. Steadman led off the game with a homer.
“I think if we win two next we’ll definitely have a chance to get in,” Frank said. “Yes we definitely really wanted to win one of these games today, but I don’t think it’s over yet.”
North Bend wanted at least one of Saturday’s games for its playoff prospects. But the Bulldogs have one more doubleheader with Ashland at Clyde Allen on Thursday starting at 3 p.m.