ONTARIO, OR. – Snake River senior Keegan Keller took to the bump for the final time in a Panther jersey on Friday afternoon and when the dust had settled, he and the rest of his Snake River teammates were celebrating the Panthers first state baseball tournament win in fifteen years as they eliminated Priest River 6-1.
“To get that first win if fifteen years is really saying something because it’s been a while since we’ve been here and it’s a new experience for all of us,” Keller said. “I just wanted to go out there and give it all I had. I got my curveball going for me early and was able to throw it for strikes which helped out a lot.”
Indeed the curveball was working for Keller as he locked horns in a pitchers duel that last up till the top of the seventh.
Keller battled Sean Mortinson pitch for pitch through six innings as neither offense was able to mount any sort of threat.
Heading into the seventh the score stood at 1-1 with sophomore Cole Rushton heading to the plate. On the first pitch Rushton changed the entire make up of the game with a lead of line drive over the left fielders head for a stand up double.
Keller then drove in the eventual game winner on a 3-2 count with a double down the third base line and a 2-1 lead. That opened the flood gates as Snake River eventually sent 10 hitters to the plate in an inning in which the Panthers scored 5 runs on 6 hits.
“On the 2-2 pitch he threw me a curveball that missed so I was looking for a fast ball to hit and I got a pitch that I could turn on and put a good swing on it,” Keller said. “For a sophomore to lead off the inning with a double was huge though, Cole really came through when we needed him to.”
Priest River was far from through however as they loaded the bases in the bottom half of the frame, prompting a visit to the mound by Snake River skipper James Carter. Rather than pull Keller, Carter stayed with his senior and Keller responded by inducing a harmless ground ball to third that Cody Dean gobbled up and after a strong throw to first, Snake River celebrated the big win.
“This was a big win for these kids, they really deserved it,” Coach Carter said. “Keegan pitched as big a game as he has all year, he threw strikes and was big when we needed him to be. We’ve had some good defensive games this year but today they played the best defensive game that we’ve had all year.”
Snake River will face off with Buhl this morning at 10 A.M. for the consolation championship.
SNAKE RIVER 6, PRIEST RIVER 1
Snake River 100 000 5 – 6 9 1
Priest River 000 010 0 – 1 6 3
Snake River hitters – Cash Cardona 3-4 2B, Cody Dean 1-3 2RBI, Cole Rushton 1-3 2B, Keegan Keller 1-3 2B, Shane Parkinson 2-3; pitching – Keegan Keller (W) 7IP 1R 1ER 6H 6K 3BB 1HP
Priest River hitters – Dalton Sommer 2-3 2B, Nick Farnham 1-2 RBI; pitching – Sean Mortinson (L) 6 2/3IP 6R 4ER 9H 13K 1BB; Eric Holbrook 1/3IP 0R 0H 0K 0BB