The Columbia Gorge Hustlers kept pace in the early innings before Mt. Hood Select opened the floodgates in the fourth inning on its way to an 11-3 baseball win Wednesday night.
After giving up a pair of runs in the first inning, the Hustlers pulled back even in the third.
Ben Nelson whipped a two-out hit down the third-base line that brought teammate Wade Fields home with the team’s first run.
But Nelson was far from finished.
He stole second base at the first opportunity, sliding in safely while Mt. Hood second baseman Kyle Fitzgerald leaped over him to retrieve an off-target throw.
“We had to get something going, and coach gave me the green light, so I thought I might as well try it,” Nelson said.
Teammate Dom Smith drew a walk in the next at-bat, giving the Hustlers runners on the corners and prompting a Mt. Hood meeting on the mound.
Mt. Hood starting pitcher Stu Weber was called for a balk before he could release his next pitch, giving Nelson a free pass home to tie the game 2-2.
The Select squad went down in order in the bottom of the third with starter Andrew Carlock striking out the first batter, while Brock LaFever tracked down a pop-up near first base for the third out.
The Hustlers’ Ben Schanno was hit by a pitch and moved into scoring position in the fourth inning, but the go-ahead run would be stranded there after Fitzgerald gobbled up a roller on the right side.
Mt. Hood broke the game open with a five-run flurry in the fourth inning, batting through the lineup after having its first seven batters find their way on base.
Evan Olson, who will play at Corban University when school resumes, highlighted the rally with a two-run single to center field.
“That gave us the room we needed to relax out there and not be so tense,” he said.
Olson pushed the lead to 7-2 after diving face first home on a wild pitch.
“Andrew gave us three really strong innings to start, but this was a night where I wanted to get everyone some work,” Hustlers’ coach Steve Sugg said. “They put those five runs on us, and we just couldn’t string together enough hits to get back in it.”
Columbia Gorge put its lead-off hitter on base in five of the nine innings, but only cycled one of those players all the way around the bases.
The Select squad was closing in on the mercy rule in the eighth inning after loading the bases with nobody out. J.J. Buehler’s double to center field put Mt. Hood in front 11-2.
The Hustlers stayed in the game when Isaac Anthony, the team’s fourth pitcher of the night, struck out back-to-back batters to strand the game-ending run at third base.
“We’re a young team playing competitive baseball,” Sugg said.
Columbia Gorge kept the game alive in the ninth inning when Jason Pullen lined a two-out single past the shortstop’s glove. He immediately stole second base, setting the stage for Carlock to deliver an RBI-single to center field.
Nelson would reach safely on an error in the next at-bat through brought the Hustlers’ dugout to its feet, but any hopes of a comeback were extinguished when Olson gloved a high hopper on the mound and made a simple toss to first base to retire the only batter he faced.
Weber got the start for Mt. Hood and struck out 11 batters through six innings. Mt. Hood held the Hustlers to zeroes in seven of the nine innings and retired the side in order twice.
Columbia Gorge reliever Dalles Seufalemua pitched the fifth, sixth and seventh innings, allowing one run on two hits while striking out three batters during that span.
It marked his first action on the mound since the opening week of summer, as he is recovering from a hamstring injury.
“It’s been a long time since I’ve pitched, but everything felt good and I was hitting my spots,” Seufalemua said.
Nelson led the Hustler bats going 3-for-5 out the team’s No. 2 spot.