KNAPPA Some teams are good, some are lucky, and some are just made for the playoffs. The Knappa Loggers are a little bit of all three.
Its hard to explain how or why the Loggers keep winning.
Theyve got freshmen all through the starting lineup, and for the second playoff game in a row, they didnt have their best stuff on the mound. They also committed four errors in Fridays Class 2A playoff game against East Linn Christian.
But through it all, the Loggers just keep winning, as they managed to hold off the Eagles 4-3 in the state quarterfinal contest at Teevin Field.
It might be easier to just accept the fact that the Loggers keep winning because theyre the Loggers.
Thats what we do we scrap to play another day, said Knappa coach Jeff Miller, whose team was celebrating yet another big playoff win Friday. This was one of those days that weve talked about. Some days youre not hitting the way you want to and you might not have your best stuff on the mound but those are the days when the good teams find a way to win.
And I think our guys showed that theyre pretty good today. They had to battle and scrap against a solid club.
Knappas Kyle Kelly came up big, as the Logger junior pitched a complete game on the mound and belted the eventual game-winning home run at the plate, snapping a 3-3 tie in the bottom of the fifth.
And now, for the second time in three years, the Class 2As most consistent winner has advanced to the state semifinals.
Of the final eight teams that played Friday, the Loggers were making their fifth straight appearance in the quarterfinals, three more than the next closest, Kennedy and Stanfield, which were both there for the second year in a row.
Knappa will play at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday at Kennedy, for the right to play in the 2012 state championship game Friday.
East Linn Christian had seven hits in the loss including four doubles and a home run and the Eagles played errorless ball in the field.
But they also stranded nine base runners, and couldnt get to Kelly when they needed to.
This was certainly Kyles day, Miller said. He controlled things from the mound and battled through. He didnt have his best stuff at all. There wasnt a lot of zip on his fastball and he left some pitches high. But theres no better competitor, anywhere. That guy competes, and thats what he did to get through today.
Late in the game, Miller said, Kelly made some really good pitches. And of course he hit the home run, which probably got a car on Highway 30. It was a pretty good shot.
Kelly also gave up a home run to East Linns Austin Miszei in the top of the fifth that tied the game, and agreed that it wasnt his best day on the mound.
That kid hit a frickin bomb, Kelly said of Miszeis home run. But I kept my head in there, and kept trying to hit the corners, and it worked out good.
Kelly struck out seven and walked two in the complete-game victory.
Neither team could put together a big inning. The Eagles scored a run in the third, and added one each in the fourth and the fifth.
Knappa scored one in the first inning, when Austin Palek delivered a two-out double that brought in Kelly with the games first run.
The Loggers also scored single runs in the third, fourth and fifth, answering each run scored by East Linn.
We focus on winning innings, Miller said. And we did a good job of that. Every time they scored, we would respond. We never got behind. And we have a lot of confidence in Kyle. When hes on the mound, they all feel that somehow, this will work out.
Palek drove in Kelly with another two-out base hit in the third inning, and Andy Millers one-out single in the fourth scored Nick Landwehr for a 3-2 lead.
Miszeis leadoff homer to start the fifth tied the game at 3-3, and Kelly answered with his leadoff homer in the bottom of the inning off East Linns Josh Gerig, who also went the distance on the mound.
But it was a pickoff throw by Kelly in the top of the seventh that may have been the biggest play.
Miszei drew a leadoff walk, but was caught leaning the wrong way after taking a lead off first base. The pickoff seemed to take the wind out of the Eagles wings, and Kelly retired the next two batters in order to end the game.
(Miszei) took a late lead, I was already set and saw him, and caught him leaning the other way, Kelly said.
With a little wind, a few of East Linns doubles might have been home runs.
They hit a lot of hard balls at us, Miller said. We made some plays and made some mistakes, but limited the big inning. We never gave up a big inning. They had a few chances where they had multiple base runners, but we came up with the big pitch or a big play to get out of it.
Freshman Andy Miller made several big plays at shortstop, including a diving catch in shallow left field to start the second inning.
We had a couple silly errors, Kelly said, but who doesnt? Andy made a couple great plays.
Hes only had two or three games at shortstop, coach Miller said of his son. Its nice to have his versatility where we can either pitch him or put him in the infield at second or short, or put him in the outfield.
All these guys just kind of live for the next pitch, and we were able to come through with some big plays at the right time, he said.
Knappas four freshmen in the starting lineup are no longer a liability, since all four have seen plenty of action, and have starred all year in other sports.
These young guys have been through a lot of big games, coach Miller said. Those freshmen have played a lot of baseball. Theyve been in the all-star program in town (Lower Columbia All-Stars). Its almost June theres no such thing as freshmen anymore.
Kelly, meanwhile, cant help but think of his older brother Dalton, whose knee injury in basketball kept him out of the baseball season and ended his prep career.
Looking at how we turned out, if we had Dalton he would have been our ace pitcher, and wed be a lot better, Kyle said of his big bro. Its been tough for him to sit out.
East Linn Christian 3
E. Linn 001 110 03 7 0
Knappa 101 110 x4 7 4
J.Gerig and Bates; Kelly and Benthin. W: Kelly. L: J.Gerig. RBI: ELC, J.Gerig, Bates, Miszei; Kna, Palek 2, Miller, Kelly. 2B: ELC, Stutzman 2, Hooley, Miszei; Kna, Palek. HR: ELC, Miszei; Kna, Kelly. LOB: East Linn Christian 9, Knappa 5.
Ontario 12, Madras 2
North Valley 7, Sisters 3
Henley 2, Klamath Union 1
Hidden Valley 14, Molalla 1
Bandon/Pacific 11, Salem Academy 1
Cascade Christian 8, Pleasant Hill 6
Burns 8, Glide 2
Santiam Christian 3, Vale 0
Weston-McEwen 12, Lost River 3
Regis 8, North Douglas 3
Knappa 4, East Linn Christian 3
Kennedy 3, Stanfield 2