Playing in an 8-team baseball tournament in John Day March 28-30, the Wallowa/Imbler Cats opened their season by falling twice to St. Paul and defeating Scio once.
Coach Buck Fullerton said tourney scheduling had to be adjusted after Philomath High Schools team decided it would not play on the final day of the tournament Saturday. That rescheduling nixed a scheduled game the Cats had with Nixyaawii-Pilot Rock on Saturday and forced the local coop team to face St. Paul a second time.
St. Paul won both of those encounters by 4-3 and 17-12 scores, and on Friday Wallowa/Imbler tumbled Scio 5-3.
Fullerton, playing without the services of the teams No. 1 pitcher Wes Conrad away during spring vacation, was pleased with complete-game pitching performances provided by Kyle Johnson in the first St. Paul game and Joe Griffin against Scio.
Both Johnson, a junior, and Griffin, a sophomore, struck out 10 and walked three batters during their respective outings. The biggest difference being that Johnson absorbed a loss and Griffin earned a win.
St. Paul 4, Wal/Imb 3
According to Coach Fullerton, all runs in Thursdays loss to St. Paul were scored in the first two innings.
He said the Buckaroos from St. Paul scored one run on two doubles in the first inning and three runs on a hit batsman, walk, single, and two fielders choices in the second inning.
Reed Graves singled home a run for the Cats in the first inning while Griffin and freshman Trace VanCleave drove home Cat runs in the second inning following singles by Kody Swift and Mike Pendarvis.
During the course of that game, seven different Wallowa/Imbler players contributed one hit each while St. Paul only mustered four hits against Johnson.
Wal/Imb 5, Scio 3
In the win over the larger-division 3A Scio Loggers, the local unit scored all of the teams five runs in the second inning and then rode the pitching of Griffin to the win.
Scio, the home team in the contest, tallied two runs in the bottom of the second inning and one run in the third. Each of those three runs was the result of Cat errors, meaning Griffin pitched seven innings without allowing one earned run. In the process, he held the Loggers to five hits.
The Wallowa/Imbler team merging talents from schools 35 miles apart located in Wallowa and Union counties respectively, saw senior Casey Robertson deliver the big blow in the five-run second inning. He drove in the uprisings final two runs with a double following a single by Johnson, a hit batter, and three walks issued by Scio pitchers.
Johnson notched three singles in the Scio win and Robertson added a single to his double, accounting for all but one of the Cats six hits versus the Loggers.
St. Paul 17, Wal/Imb 12
Coach Fulleton said he has coached baseball many years, but never has experience a more painful inning than the third inning of the second St. Paul game played Saturday.
With his pitching staff well depleted by the absence of Conrad and complete game outings contributed the previous two days by Johnson and Griffin, Fullerton started Robertson on the mound. The normal third baseman struggled through two innings, only allowing one run, before the bottom dropped out in what proved to be the infamous third inning.
Johnson faced six batters in the third without recording an out, and then was replaced by two relief pitchers who, too, faced multiple batters without recording an out.
During that uncanny inning before sophomore Reed Graves took the mound for the first time in his high school career and quelled the uprising, St. Paul scored 14 runs aided by nine walks and three hit batters.
The Buckaroos ended the game with 17 runs and a mere six hits. Graves pitched the final five innings for the Cats, giving up two runs on three hits.
Wallowa/Imbler banged out 14 hits in the fray and scored seven runs in the first inning, but could do nothing to overcome that giant third inning pitching hiccup.
Griffin, Johnson, Robertson, Graves, and Swift each contributed two hits for Wal/Imb in that loss, with Johnson, Robertson, and Graves each smacking doubles.
The teams next outing will be Friday, April 5, when the Cats are slated to play a doubleheader at Pine-Eagle, in Halfway.