The Philomath High School baseball team controls its own destiny in its chase for the Oregon West Conference title. The Warriors outlasted Stayton, 5-4, in extra innings on Thursday afternoon to take the series over the Eagles and vault into first place in the league.
Just two days earlier, such a scenario seemed unlikely when Philomath stumbled badly in a 10-0 loss on its home field. But the Warriors regrouped and won on Wednesday, 2-1. The team expected to host the Eagles on Thursday for the series finale but rain forced the game to be moved to Stayton. A second straight road win would be needed to knock Stayton from atop the standings.
That’s what happened with Philomath winning the game with no outs in the ninth when Alek Russell worked a bases-loaded walk to force in Cameron Ordway. It was a unique finish to a tight game.
The Warriors’ Skylar Brolin got the call to start on the mound. Coming off a no-hitter in his previous outing, Brolin threw 111 pitches in a six-inning start, allowing eight hits, three runs and two walks with seven strikeouts.
Stayton built a 3-0 lead with single runs in the fourth, fifth and sixth innings. Down to their final four outs, the Warriors broke through in the bottom of the sixth. Mason Stearns got a two-out rally started by reaching on a walk. Alek Russell followed with an infield single with Stearns advanced all the way to third on the throw. After Russell stole second to put two base runners in scoring position, Ty May produced with a clutch single to left field, driving in both Stearns and Russell.
Griffith singled to left with May advancing to second. That set up Chad Russell, who came through with a single to center to drive in May to tie the score, 3-3, and ultimately send the game into extras.
Brayden Shenk relieved Brolin to begin the seventh and threw three strong innings, allowing one hit, no earned runs and no walks with two strikeouts.
Philomath had a chance to end the game in the bottom of the eighth but stranded a runner at third with an inning-ending fly out to right.
The Eagles then took the lead in the top of the ninth (Stayton was the visitor on the scoreboard since it was supposed to be a home game for Philomath). An infield error put a Stayton runner on and he ended up scoring on a sacrifice fly.
In the bottom of the ninth, Logan Carter and Ordway hit back-to-back singles to left field. Kash Lindsey then reached on an infield error to load the bases. That brought up Russell and he drew the walk on five pitches.
May was the top hitter statistically, going 2 for 3 with those two clutch RBIs. Shenk ended up as the pitcher of record for the win.
As far as the standings go, Stayton has completed conference play with a 12-3 record. Philomath now leads in the loss column and with a sweep of Newport next week, would clinch the championship outright with a 13-2 mark. If Philomath wins two of three over the Cubs, the team would be tied for first with Stayton at 12-3 but would have the advantage of taking the season series.
Newport has a chance to tie Stayton for first place with a sweep over Philomath, but the Cubs lost the season series to the Eagles. If Newport wins two of three over Philomath, Stayton wins the title outright.
Two of the three games against the Cubs will be in Philomath — Monday and Thursday. A Wednesday matchup is scheduled to be played at Newport.