Four runs in both the first and second innings proved too much for the Cheney baseball team to overcome in an 11-2 Great Northern League home loss last Tuesday to East Valley.
Starter Tanner Smith’s knuckleball was “not sharp,” manager Randy Elam said, allowing four runs in the first and facing just one hitter in the second. Alex Berman came on in relief and also fell victim to the Knights’ bats, giving up four runs as well in one inning of work.
Austin Harding relieved Berman in the third and “did a nice job,” Elam said, allowing a run in the inning and two more in the sixth, falling victim to a couple Cheney errors.
The Blackhawks’ only offense came in the first when Dominic Bonilla was hit by a pitch to lead off and Connor Netz followed with an infield single. A wild pitch moved them up one bag, and Sawyer Sims turned that into two runs with a double.
Cheney managed just four hits, with Tyler Gustafson and Berman adding singles. It was the Blackhawks worst margin of defeat this season.
“Credit to East Valley, they came out swinging,” Elam said. “It was one of those games. You just want to get those out of your system.”
Cheney remains in fourth place at 7-8, 7-10 overall. With three games remaining, Tuesday at last place Colville (3-13, 3-14) and Friday’s doubleheader with fifth-place Pullman (4-12, 4-13), the Blackhawks own a 3 1/2 game lead over the Greyhounds, who has just Friday’s doubleheader left, and four games over sixth-place Deer Park.
Cheney is virtually assured a first-round playoff game with either Pullman or Deer Park, and Elam said they are looking to gain some momentum for the coming post season matches this week.
“We’re telling guys our work is really about getting set up for next week,” he said.
John McCallum can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.