MILTON-FREEWATER - In their final home game of the summer, the Milton-Freewater Blazers were unable to contain the hot bats of the visiting Hustlers in Friday's 14-7 loss at McRae-Ireland field.
Playing a nine-inning game rather than a doubleheader, the two teams were close early, but everything shifted in the Hustlers' favor when they collected 10 hits in the fifth and ninth innings.
"You know, I thought our pitchers did their job," Blazers coach Mike Garcia said. "I am going to have to point, offensively and defensively, that our focus level just was not here and, quite frankly, I don't know where it was."
The Blazers used five different pitchers but none were able to quiet Hustlers' bats. The Hustlers tallied 19 hits on the day.
Garcia said the Blazers were without the services of three of their solid starters - they were traveling - but he still wanted to get other players on the mound.
"We are trying to give our top four pitchers some much needed rest before we go to the state tournament on Wednesday," he said. "So I rotated quite a few guys in the pitching rotation."
Tuff Goble started the game for the Blazers and lasted three innings but ran into trouble in the second frame.
He started the second with two strikeouts but catcher Willie McCoy was unable to grab the pitch and the Hustler's batter made it safely to first.
The next batter had an infield pop-up for the second out of the inning but then the Hustlers broke loose for three consecutive hits from the top of their order and scored two runs.
The Blazers responded in the third by posting four runs of their own.
A throwing error from the shortstop allowed Blazers' Jacob Partney to reach first. Dylan Garcia drew a walk to put two on, but Partney was picked off at third base.
The first Blazers' run came when Kevin Cuellar hit an RBI double to bring in Garcia and Goble. The next batter drove Cuellar home.
A fielding error by the Hustlers shortstop allowed Goble to score and two batters later, the Blazers scored another run off a bases-loaded walk, giving them a 4-2 lead.
The Blazers tacked on one more run in the fourth off a sacrifice fly by Goble to score Branden James.
It all changed in the fifth when four Hustler runners crossed home plate.
A single, a passed ball, a walk, a bunt, a hit batter, and another single gave the Hustlers the four runs before Blazers' second baseman Deric Carson's unassisted double play and a strikeout by reliever Partney finally ended the inning - but with a 6-4 Hustler lead.
It wasn't out of reach - especially when the Blazers scored two more runs in fifth and seventh inning.
Yet, fielding errors and poor throws by M-F and a continual barrage of hits by the Hustlers allowed The Dalles to take a 9-7 lead into the final frame.
Five runs allowed on six hits in the ninth off Blazers' reliever Cuellar seemed to end any hopes of a Blazers win.
And no comeback happened for M-F in the bottom of the ninth as their first three batters grounded and popped out.
"Obviously, he (Cuellar) gave up some runs there in that last inning and had he not, we would have kept it close, two runs down," Garcia said. "But as soon as they got those runs our heads were hanging and we were not in the ballgame."
The Blazers were led by Goble's two RBIs while The Dalles' Conner Mathaisen had five hits and his teammates Spencer Dodd and Alex Baldwin had three hits each.
With the loss, the Blazers took a 14-22 record into Saturday and Sunday's wood bat tournament in Baker City, Ore.
The Dalles 020 041 205 - 14 19 3
M-F 004 110 100 - 7 9 2
Walker, McCloud (4), Mathaisen (6) and Lowes; Goble, Partney (4), Ortiz (5), Sandoval (6), Cuellar (6) and McCoy.
HR - none.
Hits - The Dalles: Kizer, Dodd 3, Mathaisen 5, Phettiplace, Urness 2, Sugg, Schwartzbach 2, Baldwin 3, Lowes. M-F: Partney 2, James, Goble, Cuellar 2. McCoy 2, Quaempts.