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BASEBALL: Country Christian knocked from Special District 2 unbeaten ranks

by: JIM BESEDA/MOLALLA PIONEER - Country Christian's Jordan Syphard surrendered one run of four hits with one walk and six strikeouts in last week's 1-0 home loss to Kennedy. For a couple of days last week, the Country Christian Cougars stood alone atop the 2A/1A Special District 2 baseball standings.

Then the Kennedy Trojans came to town.

Kennedy’s Daulton Susee tossed a five-hitter with four strikeouts and came out on top of his pitchers’ duel with Country Christian’s Jordan Syphard as the Trojans won 1-0 Wednesday and handed the Cougars their first loss in league play.

The game was scoreless until the sixth inning when Kennedy’s Ty Sawyer blasted a lead-off triple to center and scored when Cougars’ first baseman Cooper Nofziger bobbled Max Jaeger’s one-out grounder.

“If Coop handles that cleanly, I think he looks the runner back on that,” Cougars coach Garylee Syphard said.

Country Christian threatened in the home half of the sixth, putting runners at first and third with one out. The Cougars tried a squeeze play, but came up empty when Derek Halverson popped back to the pitcher on his bunt attempt and the Trojans turned it into an inning-ending double play.

“That’s what happens when you pop up a bunt, but I’d do it 100 more times just like that,” Garylee Syphard said. “We’re a small-ball team. We live and die with it, and today we shot ourselves in the foot.

“Our games with Kennedy are just like this — close, and where one play is going to make the difference. That’s what happened. If we pitch and we play defense, we’re going to win most ball games, but we still have to make plays.”

Shortstop Andrew Axmaker went 3 for 3 with two stolen bases for the Cougars, while Mitchell Sandberg and Nofziger had the only other hits off Susee.

On the mound, Jordan Syphard went the distance, surrendering one run on four hits with one walk and six strikeouts. The junior right-hander threw 93 pitches, including 60 for strikes.

The loss snapped the Cougars’ longest winning streak of the season at six games and added to what was already a log jam atop the league standings.

On Friday, the Cougars bounced back with a 22-3 rout of East Linn Christian Academy in Lebanon.

Austin Amaya, Hayden Cunningham, Mitchell Sandberg and Halverson had three hits each as the Cougars erupted for 23 hits in a game that ended after five innings.

Axmaker tossed three innings of no-bit ball with four strikeouts before Cunningham and Halverson threw one inning each in relief.

“We would like to be in the driver’s seat,” Garylee Syphard said. “Now, we’re tied for first with a handful of other teams, but you know what? That’s just the way this league is. It always is close, and I expect it to be that way all season.”

The Cougars suffered their second league loss on Tuesday, falling 12-7 at home to Regis.

That loss, coupled with Kennedy's 12-0 victory at Delphian and with Culver's 12-5 win against Perrydale on Tuesday dropped the Cougars into fourth place in the league race, one game behind league co-leaders Kennedy and Regis, and a half-game behind third-place Culver.

The Cougars (10-4, 6-2) are scheduled to play a 4:30 p.m. game Wednesday against Perrydale, and then have a 4:30 p.m. game Friday at Santiam.




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