NWCART: Redmond (OR) hands Service first loss, but Cougars already clinched berth to Tuesday’s final

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Posted by Van Williams, ALB Media Director | Aug 7, 2023

It’s a good thing this game didn’t matter for the Service Cougars.

With the previously undefeated Cougars already guaranteed a spot in the Northwest Class A Region Tournament final, they could afford to take their foot off the gas pedal for Monday night’s game against Redmond, Oregon.

Redmond, on the other hand, was a one-loss team playing to keep its championship hopes alive and it showed as the Oregonians fought back for a 13-6 victory under the lights in Havre, Montana.

This was the second-highest scoring contest among the 13 games played at this year’s NWCART, thanks largely to a big first inning that featured nine combined runs. That set the tone.

Service (28-9) saved its pitching for Tuesday’s title game that will take place 30 minutes after Redmond and Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, square off at 10 a.m. ADT. The winner of that game will play the Cougars for all the marbles around 12:30 p.m.

This will be the second time an Alaska team has reached the title game of this regional tournament, the first coming in 2019, when Wasilla lost 6-0 to Layton, Utah.

Service built leads of 4-0 and 6-5 early against Redmond starting pitcher Aiden Cooley, who took a lickin’ and kept on tickin.’

The lefty faced 10 batters in the first inning and seven more in the second inning before flipping the script and throwing five scoreless frames en route to a 99-pitch CG.

Meanwhile, Service needed four pitchers to get through six innings and kicked the ball around a little defensively with three errors. It was their worst effort in nine postseason games dating back to the state tournament.

To be fair, the game was meaningless for the Cougars, so that probably played a factor in the letdown after winning their first three tournament games by a 14-5 margin.

The Alaskans came out swinging as they produced four singles and a line-drive out eight batters into the game to power a 4-0 lead. Outfielder Andrew Hickman got an RBI single for his first hit in eight tournament at-bats and outfielder Hunter Huelskoetter singled in another run in his first plate appearance of the NWCART.

It felt like everybody was going to hit as Service’s offense started to flex its muscle. In the second, Hickman had another RBI single and Michael Sculley drove in a run on a sac fly for his first RBI of the tournament as Service went ahead 6-5.

The lead didn’t last.

The Oregonians scored seven runs in the third after putting the first six batters on base. They got it done with bunts and a blast.

They laid down three picture-perfect bunts in the same spot up the third-base line. They were so good that two of them didn’t even draw a throw from the defense.

With the bases juiced, Redmond went to work and pieced together a go-ahead rally. The Oregon champions cracked double figures on Aiden Gebhard’s three-run triple. Earlier in the game he ripped a 350-foot foul ball home run.

Service relief pitchers Hickman and Huelskoetter held Redmond off the scoreboard for the final 2.2 innings.

Defensively there were a few forgettable plays by the Cougars, but there were also two web gems.

In the second, first baseman Kolby Jensen picked a one-hopper and gunned down a runner at the plate. In the fifth, Redmond’s Eli Pupo ripped a groundball that bounced off Service shortstop Chase Mascelli, but second baseman Hunter Christian backed him up, collected the carom and threw out the runner for a 6-4-3 putout.

Speaking of web gems, Redmond center fielder Gebhart robbed Hickman of extra bases in the seventh with a great catch. Hickman finished 2-for-4 with two RBIs.

Jensen stayed scorching hot, going 3-for-4 to raise his team-leading tournament batting average to .571 on 8-for-14 hitting.

Fournier went 1-for-3 with a walk, making him 6-for-15 (.400) in the tournament. He also leads the team with five RBIs; Hickman and Mascelli are second with three.

Jensen and Fournier are the only two Service players to have a hit in each of the team’s four NWCART games.

Service 420 000 0 – 6 9 3
Redmond 507 100 x – 13 11 3
Service – Trey Maltby, Trevor Maltby (3), A.Hickman (4), Huelskoetter (6) and Fournier. Redmond – Cooley and Aeschliman. W – Cooley. L – Trey Maltby. 2B – Altizer (R). 3B – Gebhard (R). HR – None.