PHS sophomore Joe Barnes held Madras hitless through the final three innings. (Photo by Brad Fuqua/Philomath News)

CORVALLIS — Heading into the bottom of the third inning, Philomath High’s players faced the reality of an 8-1 deficit against Madras during a chilly, windy early evening game on Crescent Valley’s field.

The White Buffaloes (5-3) had eight hits, moved base runners and took advantage of Warrior miscues to knock Philomath back a few steps.

“When you get down big, it takes you out of a lot of the things you want to do offensively,” PHS coach Levi Webber said after what had ended up as an 8-3 loss. “You can’t hit and run, you can’t bunt as much because you don’t want to give away outs. It’s just about us getting games in and getting that flow down.”

In such performances, it’s those bright spots that teams on the losing end try to find. For the Warriors, sophomore pitcher Joe Barnes was that bright spot as he held Madras hitless in his three innings of work.

“If you were at Santiam Christian a couple of weeks ago and saw his first outing, it was 180 degrees different from what he was today,” Webber said. “Today, he was the Joe that we know he can be. If he competes in the zone like that and throws strikes and pitches with that type of confidence, he has the potential to be something special.”

Senior Chad Russell reacts toward the PHS dugout after hitting his second double of the evening. (Photo by Brad Fuqua/Philomath News)

PHS senior Chad Russell was another bright spot with two well-hit doubles — the second one driving in a run. The Warriors actually outhit the opponent, 10-8, but left nine runners on base.

“At the plate, I don’t think we were terrible but we just couldn’t get the hit when we needed to,” Webber said. “It seemed like we had guys on base all day long and at some point, you’ve got to find a way to push them across.”

Madras found success early against PHS starter Ty May and the coach went to David Griffith to start the third inning.

“I thought David came in and threw the ball well,” Webber said. “He’s battling a little bit of an arm (issue) so he gives us what he can but he’s on a bit of a pitch count right now. But I thought he came in and competed really well.”

Griffith allowed one hit and one walk in two innings. Barnes took over to start the fifth and allowed no hits and one walk with five strikeouts.

Freshman Caleb Babcock shows that he has the ball after making a diving catch in center field. (Photo by Brad Fuqua/Philomath News)

Down 3-0 in the first, Philomath scored its first run when freshman Caleb Babcock hit a single to center and later scored on a Griffith one-out single to left. Babcock also scored the team’s second run in the third inning while Madras was busy turning a double play. In the fifth, Russell doubled in Griffith.

Babcock, Griffith and Russell each had two hits for the Warriors. Philomath did make some exceptional plays on defense, including a play at the plate by catcher Grant Niemann and a diving catch in center field by Babcock.

Cael White, Conner Flu and Ayden Holcomb each had two hits for the White Buffaloes. Holcomb started at pitcher and allowed nine hits and one walk with seven strikeouts. Dru Boyle finished the final two innings and allowed one hit and two walks with two strikeouts.

“We have zero consistency with how we go about it and today we showed up with no urgency, no energy, which was disappointing especially coming off of our last game,” Webber said after meeting with his players for several minutes after the final out. “I know it was about a week ago but I thought we were starting to turn the corner a little bit over there in Newport.”

Philomath won two of three games in the tournament on the coast, including a 13-3 rout over Valley Catholic.

PHS sophomore catcher Grant Niemann makes a play at the plate in the second. The runner was called out to end the inning. (Photo by Brad Fuqua/Philomath News)

Five games into a baseball season that has been fragmented by rainouts, poor field conditions and spring break, Webber said his team is a work in progress.

“If you were just going off results and how we go about it, I would say we’re a team that has some talent,” he said. “But we haven’t figured out how to compete at the level that we need to compete at if we want to be the type of team that I think we can be.”

Philomath (2-3) will next hit the road for a challenging trip that includes matchups Friday against Mazama and Saturday against Henley.

“We’ll definitely see what we’re made of this weekend,” Webber said. “Mazama and Henley are both pretty good clubs so it’ll be a good little test for us to go on the road. It’ll be good to get out there and build a little team chemistry.”

Brad Fuqua

Brad Fuqua, Philomath News

Brad Fuqua has covered the Philomath area since 2014 as the editor of the now-closed Philomath Express and currently as publisher/editor of the Philomath News. He has worked as a professional journalist since 1988 at daily and weekly newspapers in Nebraska, Kansas, North Dakota, Arizona, Montana and Oregon.