Trenton Toplikar

Toplikar, Stevens Shine as Knights Top Pippins, Even Series

CORVALLIS, Ore. –  And we’ll see you on Thursday night.

The Knights used a clutch performance by starter Trenton Toplikar (pictured, above) and a three-hit, two-RBI night by shortstop Chad Stevens to defeat Yakima Valley 8-4 in Game 2 of the South Division playoffs.

Corvallis (41-21) staved off elimination and evened the best-of-3 series 1-1, setting up Thursday’s 6:40 p.m. winner-take-all finale. Cal Poly’s Connor Redmond (1-2, 3.72) will pitch for the Knights; Yakima Valley’s starter is TBA.

A rising junior at UC Riverside, Toplikar allowed four hits and four runs over a season-long seven innings. He struck out four and walked one.

“I was confident that my team would get plenty of runs and be solid on defense behind me,” Toplikar said. “I relied on location on the fastball, that they would make weak contact, and [I had] confidence in my teammates behind me.”

UCR teammate Hazahel Quijada went the final two innings for the save. He allowed one hit, walked one and struck out three, including the final two batters of the game.

The Pippins won 9-3 in Game 1 on Tuesday night. The Knights are seeking their ninth berth in the WCL Championship Series, Yakima Valley its first.

Stevens (Portland) was 3-for-4 with two singles, a double, two RBIs and a run scored. He is hitting .448 (13-29) over his last eight games, with four doubles, a triple and nine RBIs.

Second baseman Matt Kelly (Portland) singled twice and drive in two. Leadoff hitter Taylor Travess (Oregon) was 1-for 1, reached base safely in all five plate appearances, scored twice and stole a base.

The Knights took a 3-0 lead in the second inning on consecutive doubles by Oregon Staters Zak Taylor and Elliot Willy, an RBI single by Stevens and a Kelly sacrifice fly.

The Pippins responded with three runs in the third to tie the game, but the Knights pulled back ahead 4-3 with a single run in the fourth. Jace Duty (San Jose State) walked, stole second, and scored on Stevens’ RBI double.

Four straight two-out singles in the sixth scored two to send the Knights back ahead 6-4. Kelly and Jordan Qsar (Pepperdine) had the RBIs; it was the 52nd of the season for Qsar, extending his franchise record.

The Knights added two insurance runs in the eighth on Nevada-Reno’s Dillan Shrum’s RBI single and a throwing error. Every starter either had a base hit, or scored in a balanced 11-hit attack.

Thursday night’s winner will face Victoria in the WCL Championship Series. The HarbourCats defeated host Kelowna 11-5 on Wednesday to sweep their North Division playoff series. Victoria won 8-2 on Tuesday night in Game 1.

The best-of-3 WCL Championship Series starts on Saturday. If the Knights advance to the finals, they will have the home-field advantage and host Game 2 on Monday and Game 3 on Tuesday.

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