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After facing the top two teams in the Three Rivers League in their past three weeks, the Canby Cougar baseball team had an evenly matched series in Tigard next up on the docket.
On paper, the Cougars (8-10, 4-5 TRL) and the Tigers (7-10, 2-7 TRL) boast similar overall records — though the Tigers boast a gaudy 24-0 win over Forest Grove on their resume. But the big difference has been the competition.
While the Cougars have beaten the likes of No. 5 Lakeridge and No. 2 West Linn, Tigard has notched only a couple of wins against top-20 competition.
Despite Canby’s overall losing record, the Cougs currently sit at No. 19 in the state thanks to the strength of their brutal schedule. They proved that that mark was no fluke with two wins over the Tigers.
Canby began the series with a home win that looked very similar to their win over Lakeridge three weeks ago — one without many hits. While stud pitcher Joe Brauckmiller was dealing strikes for the Cougars, his offense struggled to get hits against Buddy Brands.
To call the opening innings a pitcher’s duel would be a severe understatement; neither Brands nor Brauckmiller allowed a single hit through the first four innings of play.
Isaac Hertzog broke up Canby’s no-hit bid with a single in the top of the fifth, one that ultimately proved to be the only hit of the day for the Tigers. Brauckmiller struck out seven and allowed only three baserunners all afternoon.
“[Joe] got ahead of hitters and worked with a good pace,” head coach J.J. Stolsig said after the game. “He kept our defense in it by working fast and pounding the strike zone. Our defense was active and made all the plays that came their way.”
However, as the Canby senior continued to send Tigers back to the dugout, the Cougar bats stayed silent. Brands still hadn’t allowed a hit as the game entered the final inning, tied 0-0.
After Theo Netter was hit by a pitch and advanced due to a bunt, Canby was in their best position all afternoon despite only getting two batters on base all day. Clayton Langdale stepped to the plate. Before this at-bat, he had struck out twice, once looking and once swinging.
On the first pitch, Langdale sent an RBI double down the line that broke up Brands’ no-hitter and won the game for the Cougars.
Despite recording a feeble three baserunners and a solitary hit, the Cougars had scratched and clawed their way to a win — their second win of the season with less than five baserunners.
“Winning the Tuesday game in our league is a big deal,” Stolsig said. “Getting that first one of the week sets the tone and helps with confidence going into the next one. In our league, anyone can win on any day so you have to bring your A-game each day.”
One day later, the Cougars were victorious again thanks to opportune offense. Looking at the final score, 4-2, you might assume Canby had conquered their hitting woes from the day before. Yet, the Cougs managed just three hits to Tigard’s eight.
Once again, those hits came at the perfect time to translate to runs. Alex Evans and Kellan Oakes both picked up their hits in the top of the third. After Evans singled, Brauckmiller and Mikey Gibson both walked to put the Cougars in prime position.
Two at-bats and a passed ball score later, Oakes smacked an RBI double down the line to give Canby a 3-2 lead, one that would only grow for the away team.
Ironically enough, Canby’s best day at the plate would be their only loss of the series. Tigard took Friday’s game, 5-2, despite being outhit 7-6. The Cougs made contact with the bat but left runners stranded.
Canby’s only runs of the day did not come from hits — one came from a beanball with the bases loaded and the other score one at-bat later on an Oakes RBI grounder.
Despite the loss, the Cougars exited the week with their first series win of the year. Stolsig knows that his team’s potential could lead to more wins.
“We haven’t hit that well yet,” Stolsig said. “We have seen some guys get better and some adjustments have been made. Soon it is going to click and if we are playing well in all three phases we will be tough to beat.”
The Cougars will have to be ready for another dog fight as they face No. 6 Tualatin (12-6, 8-4 TRL) this week. Though the Timberwolves boast the better record, both Canby and Tualatin posted a 1-2 record against Lakeridge.
The series is slated to begin Tuesday in Tualatin, with a first pitch scheduled for 5 p.m. in all three games.
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