“Let’s play two” — perhaps only the old-timers will remember that memorable quote from Ernie Banks. But even though the Cubs great uttered that phrase decades ago, it rings true for those who love the game.
Philomath High’s baseball team will play two on Friday to open a pandemic-condensed season. With the nasty virus wiping out the entire 2020 season, the Warriors will be hitting two-baggers and running down line drives for the first time in two years.
“It’s been long overdue,” PHS coach Levi Webber said this week before leading a practice with his team. “Obviously there are some new hoops you have to jump through to make it happen but it’s been great. We started a month later than normal; it stunk that we couldn’t get out here in March like we normally do but the weather’s been fantastic the first week and a half and it looks like it’s going to be good through the end of this week at least.”
Webber and the Warriors head into the home twinbill against Sisters with a lot of inexperience at the varsity level. Only junior Cameron Ordway, senior Adam Hernandez and junior Carson Gerding have played in a varsity baseball game and it looks like Gerding could miss the season because of a finger injury that required surgery.
Webber’s enthusiastic about what this team can do on the baseball diamond and says that he’s not sure about what opposing teams have coming into this season.
“I think I know less about our league this year than I did the first year I came into our league just because I don’t really know who’s coming back,” Webber said about the Oregon West Conference. “I know there’s been some numbers down around the state just because of everything going on, not as many seniors coming out because of picking up jobs and stuff during the break.
“I don’t know what it’s going to look like but I know we’re going to compete and get after it and hopefully put ourselves in a good spot coming into the season,” he added.
Overall, Philomath High’s numbers are down — they’re pretty much down in all sports — with 22. Webber will carry a dozen of those on the varsity roster.
“Everybody’s going to get plenty of playing time, that’s for sure, going with two teams,” Webber said. “I’m just hoping we can stay healthy and get through it and get the most out of the season that we can.”
Philomath has only two seniors on the roster with Hernandez and transfer student Chase Beardsley. The limited number of athletes in the class is not a surprise, however, with low numbers among the group all the way through from freshmen.
On the mound, Hernandez returns with the most experience. As a sophomore, he threw just under 38 innings.
“He’s the only real experience we have on the mound,” Webber said. “Adam had a pretty strong sophomore year, so he’s going to be a guy out there for us.”
Junior Skylar Brolin could be a pitcher to lean on.
“He was a big-time strike thrower as a freshman on the JV and had a really good summer for us before what would’ve been his sophomore season last year,” Webber said. “He’ll be another guy we’ll have to count on.”
Sophomore Ty May, junior Blake Niemann and Ordway could also see innings.
“We have some guys that we can run out there and we feel pretty good about,” Webber said. “I don’t know if we’re going to let David (Griffith) throw or not at all this year because he had a shoulder issue in the fall.”
Behind the plate, Webber will choose between juniors Logan Carter and Jake Williams.
“Logan Carter is kind of the frontrunner, but Jacob Williams could see some time back there as well,” he said. “This is the most inexperienced we’ve been at catcher coming in. I think this is the first time we’ll have a catcher that either hasn’t caught varsity the year before to some extent or have had significant playing time the summer before.
“It’ll be a good little test for Logan to see how he does back there and Jacob when he hops in,” he added.
Around the infield, May is penciled in at first base, Griffith at second base and Ordway at shortstop with either Wiliams or Beardsley at third. Those combinations change a bit depending on who’s pitching.
On May, Webber said “he’s a big athletic kid that does a pretty good job. I’m pleased to see the strides he’s taken over there this last week.”
Griffith will move to shortstop when Ordway pitches with either Niemann or junior Alek Russell filling in at second.
Ordway brings an experienced presence to the infield.
“He’s going to be our big-time leader this year and we’re really going to lean on him as the guy to lead our team just because he’s in the middle of the diamond and he’s played at a pretty high level,” Webber said.
As of Tuesday, Webber wasn’t sure who would have the edge to start at third. Both football players, Williams and Beardsley had their first baseball practice on Monday.
“We have a lot of athletes (around the infield),” Webber said. “So it should be pretty solid for the most part.”
In the outfield, Webber’s still considering his options about what to do in center. Gerding would’ve been the starter there but the injury has him watching from the dugout. Hernandez might have the edge to play center when he’s not on the mound.
Brolin appears to be the top prospect to start in left field with Webber saying good things about his arm. Russell and Niemann will vie for time in right field. When Brolin’s pitching, either Russell or Niemann would move to left.
“We’ll have three pretty good athletes no matter who’s out there,” Webber said. “They’re all good athletes.”
The Gerding injury was unfortunate, sustained during pregame warmups before a football game.
“He might be done for the year, which is really unfortunate, because he’s a projectable little player that would’ve hit at the top of the lineup for us and roved around in center field,” Webber said. “He’s bummed that he’s not going to be able to get out there right away. Hopefully, we’ll get him for the last week or two but that’s kind of a long shot, too.”
May also got injured playing football but he’s practicing with the team and appears to be ready to contribute.
“Ty’s nursing a little bit of an ankle but he got cleared at the end of last week,” Webber said. “He’s a little bit limited in his mobility but he’s still moving around and doing what he can do out there.”
Philomath’s schedule features almost all Oregon West opponents. The Warriors were able to schedule a nonleague game for this coming Monday at Banks. The schedule could see additions.
“We’re looking to play Newport a third time and then hopefully we’re going to pick something up with either North Bend or Corvallis, depending on which one works out. That’ll get us to 15 and we’ll see what happens that last week.”
Webber’s referring to the culminating week, which could include a state tournament with a to-be-determined format. He said the latest discussions indicated that there might be an eight-team playoff.”
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