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Warrior baseball ends 21-game losing streak to Crusaders


by: TIMES PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - Aloha starting pitcher Richard Belog kept Jesuit at bay for five innings and gave the Warriors a chance during their 7-6 win on Thursday.

Nate Christophersen waited his entire athletic career for this moment, a chance to cast one final stone at the skull of Jesuit.

When the Aloha second baseman got his window of opportunity in the last game he’ll ever play against the Crusaders, the senior knocked out the Goliath of the Metro League.

In bottom of the eighth with one out, the score tied 6-6 and Toby King positioned on second as the potential go-ahead run, Christophersen crushed a Thomas Swide fastball to the deepest part of the park in left. Jesuit outfielder Wyatt Neff made an unbelievable catch, running down Christophersen’s cannonball with a full-bore dive on the warning track for the second out.

But, Neff was so far out because of Christophersen’s blast that King tagged up and tore around third base as the relay throw made its way back toward home plate. After some dispute as to whether King tagged or not, or whether Neff caught the ball or not, the umpires ruled King had rightfully scored, giving the Warriors a 7-6 upset win over the favored Crusaders, and detonating a wild celebration outside the Aloha dugout.

At long last — after seasons of sweeps, blowouts and 21-straight losses at the hands of Jesuit — Aloha was the vanquisher.

“This is the best win I’ve had,” said Nate Christophersen. “I knew I could drive it off (Swide). I got a pitch I could hit, made good contact. I think we wanted this game more than (Jesuit) did. And, it really showed. We kept attacking them. Once they hit us, we hit them back.”

“Never count the underdog out,” added starting Aloha pitcher Richard Belog. “Jesuit probably came in saying, ‘Oh they’re easy dogs. They’re at the bottom of Metro. They’re last in Oregon. We’re going to sweep them easy.’ But, we know we can beat the top team in the state when we play hard, focus and play Aloha Warrior baseball.”

‘Focus and energy’

Aloha was the aggressor from the outset, scoring six runs in the first three innings and jumping out to a 6-2 lead. With the bases loaded in the second, Warrior first baseman Taylor Nelson drove in two with an RBI single up the middle that broke up a 2-2 tie. The next batter, Dylan Griffin, hit a chopper to Jesuit third baseman Evan Haberle, who threw high to Christian Martinek at first. The 6-foot-5 first baseman jumped to catch the ball and slapped a tag on Griffin’s shoulder, only to have the ball come out of his mitt. King — who was on second base — came around the bases for Aloha’s fifth run of the contest, 5-2. Nick Christophersen thumped a solid line drive the opposite way to right that scored Brandon Eisert in the third to extend the lead to 6-2.

by: TIMES PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - Aloha third baseman Evan Lascelles fields a ball on the infield turf and fires to first for an out against Jesuit.

“We weren’t going to stop,” said Aloha shortstop Nick Christophersen. “We were in the game the whole time. We were just going to keep pushing and try to win every inning.”

More than clutch hitting, it seemed whenever Aloha needed a big defensive play in threatening situations, the Warriors were able to come through. In the third inning, a hustling Martinek tried to protract a double down the third base line into a triple.

But, Eisert let fly a missile from foul territory that gunned down the Oregon State commit at the bag for the final out of the inning. Then, after the Crusaders put two men on to start the fourth, Aloha centerfielder Josh Williams robbed Tommy Kaempf of a base hit with a head-first dive into the watery turf in shallow to save at least one run. Jesuit scored on a Donovan Baldocchi walk with the bases loaded, but Belog blew away Marco Albanese with a fastball to end the threat.

“I’ve never beat Jesuit in any sport,” said Aloha shortstop Nick Christophersen. “So, beating them when they’re a top-ranked team is a pretty good feeling. We had energy throughout every at-bat, and we played really well in the field.”

Belog said the effort on both sides was great, but the biggest difference for Aloha was its focus and energy. When Jesuit stormed back in the top of the sixth with three runs that deadlocked the contest at 6-6, the Warriors concentrated both defensively and on the hill with Nate Christophersen.

by: TIMES PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - Jesuit pitcher Tanner Ueland came on in long relief and helped keep the Crusaders steady during their comeback against Aloha.

Rather than wilt under the Crusaders’ pressure, Aloha braced itself with strong-minded defense and sat down Jesuit in the seventh and eighth to set up Nate Christophersen’s feat. Belog gave up six runs in six innings and maintained his poise in rainy conditions that made the ball wet and hard to control. Nate Christophersen worked the seventh and eighth stanzas and allowed just one hit.

“Once they scored, we had to get them back,” said Belog. “That’s what we did. I threw up zeros as a pitcher, and we hit as a team. We corrected our mistakes, executed and got it done.”