Carson Gerding is mobbed at home plate by teammates after the PHS senior hit a grand slam in the fourth. (Photo by Brad Fuqua/Philomath News)

Sitting on a 1-2 count with the bases loaded late Thursday afternoon against Cascade, Warriors senior Carson Gerding needed to break out of an offensive funk. Heading into the series finale, Gerding had gone 0 for 7 with four strikeouts against Cougars pitching.

In short, Gerding wasn’t happy with the way his week had been going against Cascade.

“I’ve struck out a lot more than I should have against this team,” Gerding said following Philomath’s 17-4 rout. “In the first game that we played them, I did terrible because I was swinging at high pitches at my waist that I did not see.”

Carson Gerding hits a grand slam home run in the fourth inning of Thursday’s 17-4 victory over Cascade. (Photo by Brad Fuqua/Philomath News)

Then came that 1-2 pitch delivered by sophomore Jaimen Whelden.

Said Gerding, “Out of nowhere comes this high pitch and I somehow connected and pulled it to left field.”

The ball left Stephenson Field in the direction of Philomath City Park and with the bases loaded, represented Gerding’s first grand slam since he was in the eighth grade.

The blast highlighted a nine-run inning and helped the Warriors end the game early on the 10-run mercy rule. Philomath took two of three from Cascade and finds itself tied for first place in the Oregon West Conference standings.

“Today, we stuck with the game plan — line drives, found some gaps, got some guys on base and we’re able to put some pressure on them,” PHS coach Levi Webber said. “And then Carson comes up with the big one to kind of put us over the top there in the fourth. It was great to see — hopefully this gets us on the right track moving forward into the rest of the league season.”

The early part of this baseball season has not gone as expected for Philomath High. Injuries, quality opponents, inconsistent hitting and even attitude have all factored into a rough start.

“Our attitudes in the dugout, I mean, we’ve been talking a lot of smack to the other teams — stuff we don’t want to do,” Gerding said when asked if he could identify the early-season issues. “We need some leaders on this team and me and Cameron (Ordway) — we’re it. We had a talk with them before the game today to be serious, no dinking around in the dugout, get on the sticks, have good ABs and it turned out to be the best baseball game we’ve played.”

Ty May slides home on a wild pitch in the second inning. (Photo by Brad Fuqua/Philomath News)

Webber said he agrees with Gerding’s assertion that the team needs to only worry about itself.

“I’ve been telling the guys all year to focus on us, focus on our dugout and don’t chirp with the other team and stay with us,” Webber said. “Because if you stay with us, we’re plenty good. Today, I thought we did a good job of keeping the energy in our dugout and getting on each other’s backs and riding that wave.”

Alek Russell makes a play in left field. (Photo by Brad Fuqua/Philomath News)

It was quite a wave to ride in both the second and fourth innings. Cascade scored in each of the first two innings and held a 3-1 advantage going into the bottom of the second. Philomath had scored in the first on a one-run double down the third-base line by David Griffith.

In the second, Ty May led off with a walk, stole second and third and scored on a wild pitch. Two batters later, Silas Barton crushed a double to deep center to drive in Kash Lindsey, who had reached earlier on a walk.

The Warriors took the lead with Griffith hitting another double — this time driving in two. Gerding, who had walked, ended up scoring on a wild pitch and then Alek Russell followed with a line drive to right that sent Griffith home. Another run came in when Russell scored on a Cascade error.

Philomath third baseman Mason Stearns focuses on a ground ball coming his way during Thursday’s win over Cascade. (Photo by Brad Fuqua/Philomath News)

“It was good to see us come out with a better approach and just stay within ourselves,” Webber said. “I think the big thing yesterday (Wednesday) was the kid we saw (pitching), we thought we could get to him and I think our approach got a little bit big and we tried to do a little bit too much.”

But in Thursday’s game, Philomath settled down in the batter’s box and took advantage of the hitting opportunities. In the nine-run fourth, the Warriors had back-to-back one-run singles by May and Lindsey. After a strikeout and a fly out, Ordway reached on catcher’s interference to load the bases for Gerding.

Brayden Shenk takes one for the team in the fourth inning. (Photo by Brad Fuqua/Philomath News)

Following the grand slam, which gave Philomath a 14-4 lead at the time, Griffith connected for his third double of the afternoon. Russell drove him in with a double of his own. Chad Russell singled and Braydon Shenk was hit by a pitch to again load the bases for Philomath.

Skylar Brolin followed with a fly to right field that appeared as though it might be the third out but Cascade misjudged the ball and it fell to the grass. Both Alek Russell and Chad Russell scored on the play.

Six Warriors had a multiple-hit game — Griffith (3 for 4), Alek Russell (3 for 4), Lindsey (2 for 2), Ordway (2 for 3), Gerding (2 for 3) and Mason Stearns (2 for 3). In all, Philomath had 17 hits in the game.

David Griffith allowed just two hits in five innings of work. (Photo by Brad Fuqua/Philomath News)

Griffith had a quality start with a two-hitter in his five innings. In a 73-pitch outing, Griffith walked four and struck out four.

Philomath (3-6 overall, 2-1 Oregon West) will now refocus its attention on Sweet Home in a three-game series that begins Monday on the road. The lone home game for the Warriors in that set will be on Wednesday.

Note: Junior varsity results not available

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.