Blackhawks just miss road sweep of GNL-title favorite East Valley
Cheney High’s baseball team moved their Great Northern League record to the .500-mark by going 2-1 in action last week with Deer Park and East Valley. The Blackhawks overcame a hard-throwing, hard-hitting Stags team with a run in the bottom of the eighth for a 6-5 win on Tuesday, and just missed an upset of projected league-title winner East Valley (3-1, third, 4-2) Saturday, giving up a run in the bottom of the eighth inning of game two for a doubleheader split.
Cheney got what manager Randy Elam called a “fabulous game” on the mound from Sawyer Sims in the 7-2 game one win. Sims held the Knights scoreless for six innings, scattering four hits while his teammates played a typical Blackhawks ballgame offensively – pressuring the defense through bunting, walking, stealing, squeezing and manufacturing a timely hit or two.
Cheney slowly built a 7-0 lead heading into the Knights last at bat when things got a little dicey. East Valley got a couple runners on base against reliever Austin Harding, and put two across the plate on a two-out Blackhawks error, but that was all. The senior struck out the final batter for the win.
“Austin did a great job of shutting the door, getting out of it,” Elam said.
Sims got the win, walking four and striking out three. Cheney managed six hits, all singles: three by Sims and one each by Conner Netz, Tanner Gamby and Robbie Cook.
Game two was a much tighter affair. Elam said Netz threw well for four 1/3 innings, with Alex Berman relieving him in the fifth, ending the inning on a bases-loaded strikeout to preserve Cheney’s 4-3 lead.
Berman tired in the sixth, and Cook came on with no outs and bases loaded and promptly got a first-pitch, 1-2-3 double play. But the Knights managed a two-out, 2 RBI single to left to tie the game, eventually going to extra innings.
In the eighth Cheney put the go-ahead run on at third but no further. In the bottom of the frame with one out and runners at first and second, Elam had Cook intentionally walk a hitter loading the bases, and with a 2-1 count the following batter was hit by a pitch forcing in the Knights winning run.
“That’s the way she goes sometimes,” Elam said. “They (Cheney) certainly pitched well enough, hit well enough to win it.”
Cook took the loss, giving up one run on one hit and striking out one over 2 2/3 innings. Cheney had five hits, singles by Netz, Gamby, Tanner Smith and Berman along with Harding’s solo home run in the sixth.
Tuesday’s game with visiting Deer Park was a gut check for the Blackhawks, Elam said. The Stags scored three in the top of the first, and the Blackhawks were trying to hard against their pitching. Elam told them to shorten their swing and the approach worked as Cheney, helped by walks and Deer Park errors, eventually tying the game at 5 in the bottom of the fifth.
In the bottom of the eighth, Elam had RC Reid, up from junior varsity, pinch run at first and Joey Beamer then laid down a good sacrifice bunt. The Stags catcher fielded and tried to get Reid at second, but airmailed the throw to center where the fielder misplayed it, allowing Reid to race home with the game winner.
“RC can fly, they didn’t even have a play at home,” Elam said. “Got to love those three-base bunts.”
Cheney is now 3-3 in league, 3-5 overall, with an opportunity to even that last mark and move up from fourth in the standings this weekend. The Blackhawks host Colville (2-4, fifth) in a doubleheader Saturday.
John McCallum can be reached at email@example.com.