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When the Canby Cougar baseball team came into the bottom of the seventh inning against Southridge, things were in a tough spot. Down 1-0 with one out, the Cougars needed a miracle.
Enter Theo Netter.
Netter’s walk-off hit capped an impressive come-from-behind win for the Cougars and kicked off a successful week for Cougar baseball, earning a 2-1 record in preparation for Three Rivers League play.
The Cougars (3-4), fresh off their annual Arizona trip, returned to Oregon with a 1-3 record — and lots of confidence.
With two of their three losses coming via walk-off hits, coach J.J. Stolsig knew that his squad was right on the cusp.
Against a Southridge team (4-1) that headed into the game unbeaten, the Cougars hung around early. Joe Brauckmiller started on the mound for the Cougars, pitching five scoreless innings and giving up three hits.
While the senior hasn’t earned any wins yet, his pitching performance on Tuesday — as well as others throughout the year — has caught the eye of Stolsig.
“Joe Brauckmiller has pitched really well to start the year,” Stolsig told the Current. “Though he has two no-decisions so far he hasn’t allowed any runs or walks in his nine innings on the mound and he has struck out 10 people.”
While Brauckmiller was busy throwing strikes — the Cougars were busy striking out. Skyhawks pitcher Joe Dodge excelled on the mound for Southridge, throwing nine strikeouts in six innings pitched. After five innings, the game was scoreless.
In the sixth, Stolsig called Alex Evans from the bullpen to replace Brauckmiller. The senior pitched well in his two innings in relief, striking out five and allowing only one hit.
The problem? The one hit was a homer from none other than Joe Dodge, giving the Skyhawks a 1-0 advantage.
After Evans struck out all three Southridge batters in quick succession in the top of the seventh, Canby had a chance to exorcize their demons; one week after suffering two walk-off losses, the Cougars could tally a walk-off of their own.
Canby got that chance when Carson Guretzki singled and Hunter Robinson quickly drove him home with a triple. With the game now tied and a runner in scoring position, Theo Netter stepped up to the plate.
With the infield up to prevent Robinson from running home easily, Netter slapped a chopper down the line to Jack Klee. With the wildly spinning ball bouncing off of the heel of Klee’s glove, Robinson scampered home to give the Cougars their first walk-off win of the year.
While Stolsig praised both Netter and Robinson’s actions on the final play, he pointed out Netter’s team leadership as well.
“Theo has been a great leader for us this spring,” the Canby head coach said. “He has been leading with his voice and with his actions. His teammates respect him and they listen when he talks.”
The Cougars followed that gutsy performance Tuesday with a win over Barlow (2-6). After senior Bryce Oliver slapped a grand slam in the first inning that got the dugout up on their feet and the team out to a quick 5-0 lead in the first inning, it appeared that no late-game theatrics would be needed.
But, though the Cougars led 8-2 heading into the bottom of the seventh, they would have to stave off a hard-charging Barlow team bent on a comeback of their own. The Bruins managed to get four hits and six runners before Robinson stepped in at pitcher in an attempt to get his team out of a jam.
With the score already narrowed to 8-7 and a man on second base, the Cougars would need another dramatic victory.
Barlow’s Yamato Uptegrove sent a pitch flying into the domain of center fielder Mikey Gibson. With the tying runner, Zach Groza, chugging along to home, Gibson threw to his cutoff man Netter, who fired the ball to catcher Owen Tilden.
The throw just beat Groza, winning the game for the Cougars, once again, in thrilling fashion.
Canby’s luck would sputter in their final game of the week against Lebanon (2-3). Though the Cougars led 4-3 in the third thanks to a home run from offensive leader Kellan Oaks, as well as RBIs from Tilden and Casey Langdale, Canby could not hold off the comeback attempt this time around.
Lebanon scored one run apiece over the next three innings to win 6-4.
After eight games against eight different teams, the Cougars will switch to a more traditional baseball series schedule for Three Rivers League play. Canby will play all three games this week against Lakeridge, with two home games and one away game. Stolsig sees the first eight matches as good preparation for league play.
“We have seen a variety of teams that each have different strengths,” said Stolsig. “The first couple of weeks allowed us to pitch many guys, which helps us further define roles as we get into our league play. Our league will be good top to bottom. Our guys are excited to get into league play and compete against the best.”
Canby’s first game of the series against the Pacers is scheduled for Tuesday at 5 p.m.
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