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Churchill's offense ignites.

Byline: Steve Mims The Register-Guard

Churchill brought its bats back out for the playoffs.

The top-ranked Lancers got 11 hits and scored in every inning during a 10-6 victory over Crook County on Monday evening in the second round of the OSAA Class 4A baseball playoffs at Churchill High School. It was the second playoff win in school history and first for the Lancers since a 5-1 win over Sweet Home in 1980.

"We've been waiting for a breakout game like that for a while," senior center fielder Ryan Royster said. "It's nice to start a new chapter of the season on a good note and to bring something to Churchill that has not been there for a while."

The Lancers averaged 11.5 runs per game in the first half of the Midwestern League schedule, but their production dropped to 6.1 runs in the second half. The Lancers had nine days off after winning the league title and bounced back to match their largest run total of the past four weeks.

"I expected Crook County to swing the sticks and they did, but I thought we could outhit them," Churchill coach Erik Hoberg said. "We worked hard the last two weeks to get back on track with our bats. We outhit them and got the runs when we needed to."

Junior catcher Travis Larsen was 3-for-4 with three doubles and three RBIs. Larsen hit a two-out, two-run double to center in the bottom of the first to give the Lancers a 2-1 lead.

"The ball was at my shoulders, but I got the bat on the ball and it felt good," Larsen said.

Larsen had a run-scoring double in the third inning as the Lancers scored three times to take a 6-1 lead. He then opened the fifth inning with a double to left field and later scored on a single by Levi Begin to put the Lancers ahead 8-3.

"Travis came up big for us," Hoberg said. "Those were some timely hits by him. We got some guys swinging well, but we need to get some others back on track."

Royster, Begin, Jack Mehl and Josh Hogan had two hits apiece for the Lancers.

Royster, who was intentionally walked in the first inning, had a single in the fourth inning and then hit a huge home run that bounced off the concession stand at the football field to give Churchill a 10-4 lead in the bottom of the sixth. It was the 12th home run of the year for Royster.

"I was surprised when they walked me in the first inning. I thought they might do that the rest of the game and keep me out of it," Royster said. "Then on my fourth at-bat I got a curveball up in the zone and it was a pitch I could hit."

Cory Boosinger earned the victory on the mound by allowing three hits and three earned runs in five innings pitched. He struck out six and walked three.

Derrick Thoma relieved Boosinger and allowed three runs in two innings pitched.

Crook County (16-9), the No. 3 seed out of the Intermountain Conference, cut Churchill's lead to 10-5 when Scotty Ledford opened the top of the seventh inning with a solo home run off Thoma. Kyle Huntley followed with a double and then Wally Backman drove in Huntley to cut Churchill's lead to 10-6.

Thoma struck out cleanup hitter Matt Bliss and then got designated hitter Carter Gill to ground into a double play to end the game.

Backman, the son of former major-leaguer Wally Backman, was 2-for-4 with two RBIs.

Churchill improved to 25-2 with its sixth consecutive victory.

The Lancers will travel to No. 6 Lake Oswego on Wednesday to try to reach the state quarterfinals for the first time in school history.

CAPTION(S):

Churchill's Levi Begin (7) scores on a wild pitch thrown by Crook County's Peter Bjvorik (right). Begin was one of five Lancers with at least two hits Monday as Churchill won 10-6 to set up a showdown with Lake Oswego on Wednesday. Wayne Eastburn / The Register-Guard BoldfaceChurchill's Levi Begin gets greeted by teammate Eric Brown as he scored on wild pitch by Crook County's Peter Bjvorik coming in to cover plate.in third inning.
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Title Annotation:Sports; The Lancers return to early season form and beat Crook County to open the playoffs
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:May 25, 2004
Words:713
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