These Lava Bears have a lot of bottom-of-the-seventh belief.
That belief came through once again on a chilly Monday evening at Bend High as the Bears scored all three of their runs in the bottom of the seventh inning to beat South Eugene 3-2 in the first round of the Class 6A baseball state playoffs.
Tysen Scott hit a two-run single to left-center field, and A.J. Lovejoy scored from third base on a passed ball for the winning run that ignited a rowdy celebration near home plate.
Bend coach Quinn Clair said it was the fifth walk-off win for the Bears this season.
“Coach just told me that if I saw the opportunity I should take it,” Lovejoy said of his dash home to score the winning run. “I honestly didn’t think it would go by him (the South Eugene catcher) because it was a strike. But it went right past him and I just went as fast as I could. I think our team does a great job in the bottom of the seventh. As long as we have outs, there’s a chance to win. I’m just really happy we got through that one and we can go to the next round.”
Bend (18-7), the No. 12 seed, will travel to take on No. 5 seed West Linn on Wednesday in the second round. The Lions defeated No. 28 McNary 8-2 on Monday.
The Axe (16-11), the third-place team from the Southwest Conference and the No. 21 seed, struck first on Monday.
Dylan Edwards hit a sacrifice fly to score Andrew Joseph and take a 1-0 lead in the third inning. In the fourth, Zach Menegat lined a double to the fence in left field that scored Aidan Bray to give South Eugene a 2-0 lead.
The Bears had struggled all game against Axe starting pitcher Kaden Miller, who gave up only four hits until the seventh.
“We hit him pretty hard in the first and second inning, but he kind of settled in,” Clair said of Miller. “In the 6A playoffs, every team will have somebody who can throw in the high 80s (mph). We just have to fight, scratch and claw to stay alive.”
In the top of the seventh, Bend pitcher Cooper Simmonds gave up two singles but got himself out of a jam with runners on second and third by striking out Bray to end the inning.
In the dramatic bottom of the seventh, Kyle Reed and Simmonds both walked. Then Lovejoy dropped a perfect bunt down the third-base line for a single to load the bases.
“We’ve worked on that a lot,” Lovejoy said.
Scott’s single scored Reed and Simmonds to tie the game 2-2 and move Lovejoy to third base to set up the game-winning run.
“I just had him timed up from the beginning,” Scott said of Miller. “I knew he was going to throw a fastball and I was ready for it. We fight till the very end. We trust each other and believe.”
Scott was 2-for-4 with two RBIs, and Simmonds was 2-for-3 to lead the Bears.
Bend starting pitcher Caden Mathisen threw 42⁄3 innings, allowing five hits and two runs. Simmonds came in to pitch two innings, giving up three hits.
Clair said he could feel the energy in the dugout after Scott’s game-tying hit.
“Our kids have amazing belief in themselves,” Clair said. “Those were amazing at-bats. Every single guy in that inning had a great at-bat. These kids want it a lot and they want to keep playing and move on. They don’t want their year to end.”
— Reporter: 541-383-0318,