SCAPPOOSE — In a first-place Cowapa League showdown, the defending Class 4A baseball state champion Astoria Fishermen took sole possession atop the league standings with a huge 5-3 road win Wednesday over the previously No. 1-ranked Scappoose Indians.

Astoria (9-2 Cowapa, 16-4 overall) earned some revenge in a big way after two early season losses (3-1 and 1-0) to the Indians (8-3, 13-5). Senior pitcher Conor Harber threw a five-hitter, with 14 strikeouts and Dillon Smith’s three-run double helped lead No. 7-ranked Astoria to an 11th straight win.

The win puts coach Brian Babbitt’s Fishermen firmly in the driver’s seat to possibly win a seventh straight league title with four games remaining for both teams. Astoria plays on the road in its next game Friday at Yamhill-Carlton (5-6, 7-7).

“After losing two games earlier to Scappoose in which we really didn’t hit well, it was very important for us to come out here and play a solid game today,” said Babbitt. “Conor was very consistent with his pitching and it was just a matter of being able to score some runs against them. They (Scappoose) haven’t scored a lot (84 total runs), but they don’t allow many either.”

Astoria took an early 1-0 first-inning lead when Harber (three walks, two runs scored) drew a walk, and two batters later, scored on Jeramy Poyer’s RBI single. After a scoreless second, the Fishermen went up 2-0 in the third on an RBI single by Poyer (2-for-4, two singles), driving home Chris Leonardi (3-for-3, three singles, run), who drew a leadoff walk from Scappoose pitcher Blake Updike.

In a scoreless fourth, the Fishermen had a golden opportunity to extend their advantage as they loaded the bases. Andrew Bergeson (2-for-4, two singles), Tony Rudolfi (2-for-3, two singles, run) and Leonardi each singled to reach base, but all three were left stranded. Scappoose knotted it at 2-2 with two unearned runs in the fifth, aided by three Fishermen errors.

“We’ve had lots of good things go our way, but we have to learn to avoid some of the mistakes that we’re making and try to focus on just hitting more consistently,” said Babbitt.

Astoria responded with a three-run sixth, highlighted by a momentum-changing hit by Smith (2-for-4). Rudolfi ignited the rally with a leadoff single. Senior shortstop Ryan Johnson was hit by a pitch and Harber was issued an intentional walk, which loaded the bases.

Smith then blasted a ball deep to center field for a bases-clearing three-RBI double, making it 5-2. Harber didn’t allow a hit in the bottom half of the sixth as he struck out three, walked one and hit one batter. Both Indian runners were stranded as the Fishermen took control of the game with the three-run lead. Astoria had a total of 10 hits.

“Dillon’s double was huge and it was undoubtedly one of the biggest hits of the season for him,” said Babbitt.

“We’ve been rotating some of our kids in and out of the lineup while trying to get playing time for all 15 of our players and they’ve all made significant contributions for us. Everyone has worked extremely hard all season to help put us into a good position to possibly win another league title.”

Harber struck out the first two Scappoose batters in the bottom of the seventh. The Indians didn’t give up though, as they had a two-out rally and scored one run, while they got the tying run at the plate. Harber was tough through the entire contest while continually throwing a strong fastball. He notched a game-ending strikeout of the Indian’s Eric Raya to help lead the Fishermen to victory.

Astoria has home games remaining Monday vs. Tillamook (2-8, 4-14) and Tuesday against Seaside (4-7, 11-10), followed by a final regular-season road contest May 11 against the Banks Braves (4-6, 7-10). The 32-team play-in round is May 17 through 19 and first-round state playoff games are May 23.

“We have to take it one game at a time,” Babbitt said. “Yamhill-Carlton won against Seaside (11-3 Wednesday) and they’re an improved team, so we really can’t overlook anybody. It would be nice to win another state title and that’s a realistic goal. However, it’s still way too early in the season to even talk about the possibility of doing that.”

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