KNAPPA - The Knappa Loggers knew they were going to face a really good team when the Heppner Mustangs came to town Friday. What they didn't know was Heppner's pitching wasn't going to be in top form as Chance Day and Drew Johnson combined to walk eight Logger batters in a 5-2 playoff game in Knappa.
Knappa's Cody Strickland went the distance on the mound giving up seven hits, two runs with three strikeouts and no walks. A keen defense kept the Mustangs from scoring off those hits until the fifth inning. But by then, Knappa had four runs on the board.
"We had a great effort today," Knappa coach Jeff Miller said. "We stole one from a very good team."
Action for Knappa began in the third inning when four walks by Heppner's Chance Day converted to two runs.
Strickland walked, but an errant throw on a pick-off move sent him to second.
Dallas Oja and Doug Montgomery walked. Then Brady Leach hit a pop-up near first base. The first baseman dropped the ball and Strickland and Oja crossed home plate.
The Mustangs "made some mistakes they don't usually make and we took advantage," Miller said.
With Knappa leading 2-0 going into the bottom of the fourth inning, Heppner brought in a new pitcher, Drew Johnson. The first batter, Scott Lambert, hit a double to deep left field. Sablan hit a ball to second, but it was bobbled for an error. Sablan attempted to steal second base and the catcher's throw to cut him down sailed into center field while Lambert scored.
Dalton Kelly popped out to the catcher with Sablan leading off third base. The catcher made another throwing error, trying to gun him down. Kelly trotted home.
"We did a good job of getting on base without necessarily hitting," Miller said.In fact, the Loggers scored their five runs on only four hits. "We made things happen," he said.
It was Heppner's turn in the top of the fifth inning. With one out, Day hit the ball to third. Kelly's throw beat him to first base, but the umpire ruled first-baseman Montgomery pulled his foot off the bag.
Brent Eckman doubled up against the right field fence, driving in Day. Johnson followed with a single to center that scored Eckman, bringing the score to 4-2.
Knappa answered with one more run in the bottom of the fifth when Leach hit a bullet down the right-field line for a double that scored Montgomery, who had walked.
Knappa closed the last two innings by getting the last six Mustangs out in order.
"I can't say enough about Cody Strickland's pitching," Miller said. "He battled all day. He was as good as he's ever been even though he didn't have his best stuff. He was hitting his spots. He was thinking the whole game."
Strickland said after the game, "We knew we'd face a really good team, but we played our hearts out and came up with a win."
Miller added, "My hat's off to the other team." This was Heppner coach Rick Johnston's last game. "It's always a pleasure to play against his high-quality teams," Miller said.
Knappa will next play at Lakeview Tuesday.