Cougars Split Non-League Break Against Liberty, Southridge

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Out of the frying pan and into the fire. That must have been the feelings of the Canby Cougar baseball team, as they mercifully exited a two-week gauntlet in which they lost four of six games, only to face two of the top teams in the brutal Three Rivers League in Lakeridge and West Linn.

Through it all, the Cougs held their own and put the league on notice by hanging tough with some of the best in the state.

This week, though, Canby stepped away from league play, using their bye week to take on non-league opponents Liberty and Southridge, splitting the two games.

The Cougars (6-9, 2-4 TRL) began their week with a Tuesday game against the Liberty Falcons (6-8, 4-2 Pacific). For Cougar senior and team leader Kellan Oakes, the game was more than just a step away from the ultra-competitive Three Rivers.

“This week off of league play gave us a chance to really spend time focusing on little things we need to get better,” Oakes told the Current. “We are looking to finish out league play strong offensively, and continue to be solid defensively.”

In that first game against the Falcons, the Cougs were doing exactly what Oakes had prescribed. The Canby offense exploded, scoring in all but one inning, and taking home one of their most lopsided victories of the season, 8-1. Those eight runs were the most that the offense had scored in nearly a month — the squad also had eight runs against Barlow in March.

Canby tallied eight hits — an uber-efficient one hit per run — in the game, led by Oakes’ three. While Oakes was unable to tally an RBI on those hits, he did score three runs. Bryce Oliver notched two RBIs on the day to lead Canby.

Just one day later, the Cougars were right back at home again to face Southridge (7-6, 1-5 Metro) in a match of two incredibly evenly matched squads. The Skyhawks, much like Canby, sit in the middle of a tough conference. On Wednesday’s game, Southridge was fresh off the wrong side of a three-game sweep against No. 1-ranked Jesuit — and they looked hungry for the win.

Southridge quickly jumped out to a 2-0 lead by the top of the third thanks to a single by J.C. Klee. That lead remained as the Cougar bats were not as potent as they had been the day prior. This time around, the Cougars managed only four hits, only one of which came in the final four innings.

Though Joe Brauckmiller walked to get on base in the bottom of the seventh, a quick double play ended the game, with the Skyhawks winning, 2-0.

Despite the loss, the Cougars remained high in the standings, thanks to the competition they’ve faced so far this year. After 15 games and a 6-9 record, Canby sits comfortably in the playoff picture, ranked No. 20 by OSAA. Oakes sees the way the team has grown together since day one as a reason for this start.

“One thing I’m most proud of is how the team has come together,” the senior said. “Everyone is picking each other up from the dugout and out on the field. Our team chemistry is only getting better. We want to see each other succeed.”

The Cougars will be back into TRL play this week, facing another evenly matched opponent in the Tigard Tigers (6-8, 1-5 TRL). The first game of the series, a home match for Canby, is scheduled for Tuesday at 5 p.m.

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