Crescent Valley High’s baseball team was cruising along with a 16-1 record and appeared to be one of the favorites to make a deep run in the 5A playoffs and possibly make a return trip to the state title game.

Then came back-to-back losses to Central a little over a week ago, the first Mid-Willamette Conference losses in two years.

But after the Raiders bounced back last Wednesday and Friday with a two-game series sweep of South Albany, they once again find themselves in need of a response.

Hunter Runion allowed just two hits and worked out of a seventh-inning jam as visiting Silverton held off the Raiders for a 2-1 MWC win at Tim Wirth Field on Monday.

Crescent Valley (18-4, 8-3) fell out of a tie for first place with the loss and the road to a conference title is even more difficult now. The Raiders and Foxes will meet again at 5 p.m. Wednesday in Silverton.

“We’re working through some stuff and it’s weird to say but I don’t feel like we’re a very good team right now,” CV coach Ryan Starwalt said. “And it’s unfortunate because we have the talent to be really good.

“I know teams go through this type of stretch in the season and we’re hitting our stretch against some of the better teams, and that’s going to be tough until we figure out how to make routine plays and compete just a little harder at the plate and find a way to fight a little more.”

The Raiders scored their only run in the bottom of the first on Taylor Holder’s solo homer to right that tied the game at 1-1 after Silverton used two singles and a ground out to take an early lead.

The Foxes (16-4, 9-2) broke the 1-all tie in the fifth thanks to a leadoff error against the No. 9 batter. A sacrifice bunt and passed ball set up a sacrifice fly that drove in the eventual game-winner.

The Raiders committed four errors in the game.

“Our defense as a team is just not good,” Starwalt said. “I don’t know any other way to put it at this point.”

The Raiders had three runners thrown out at third, including two on stolen base attempts.

The second one came with runners at first and second and one out in the seventh as Runion appeared to be laboring to find the strike zone.

“There were a couple times we were trying to take a base but some of it was just somebody that decided they thought they had something,” Starwalt said. “And when the kid is losing control like that it’s probably not the time we want to run ourselves out of an inning so that was frustrating.”

Ethan Krupp was the tough-luck loser despite scattering four hits and striking out nine in 6⅔ innings.

“They put balls in play, we put balls in play and ours got caught and theirs didn’t and that’s all we can do basically,” Krupp said.

While the going is tough at the moment, Krupp said he believes the Raiders can get back on track and make a run back to the state title game and a shot at redemption after last year’s loss.

But it’s going to take some work and a new focus.

“We’ve just got to come to practice and treat it like a game,” he said. “I feel like there’s only a couple guys on our team that know, like from last year’s team, what it means to win and what it means to play for each other.

“So hopefully they can do some soul searching and find what they need to do. We need to get back to that state championship game, that’s the goal, it’s always been the goal so we just need to get back there if we can. We need to find that inner bulldog as a team.”

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Sports Editor

Sports editor of the Albany Democrat-Herald and Corvallis Gazette-Times