Teammates congratulate teammate Adrianna Hunter (2) after she struck out a Lebanon batter. Hunter had three strikeouts in the third inning. (Photo by Brad Fuqua/Philomath News)

The Philomath High School softball team finally saw live pitching and finally played on its home field. And it came against one of the better teams in Class 5A with Lebanon paying a visit on Tuesday afternoon.

Lebanon opened the game with 11 runs in the top of the first and ended the contest after three innings on the 15-run mercy rule with a 15-0 victory.

PHS coach Travis King said the team has only gone up against coaches pitching in the batting cages up until the season opener.

“We have not seen a live pitcher at all for this season because we haven’t been able to be outside,” King said. “I think that made a huge difference today … we were facing a team that has turf that has been able to be outside, so we’re a little behind.”

The staff had to work hard to get the field in shape for the game to be played. With the recent wet weather, King estimated that there had been 1,000 gallons of water on the tarp.

“Our outfield was a river at that point but we did a good job today,” King said. “(Facilities Director) Joey (DiGiovannangelo) came out for me this morning and dragged the field really good.”

Third baseman Grace Bennett focuses on a ground ball. (Photo by Brad Fuqua/Philomath News)

Because of rain, Philomath hadn’t played on its home field even in practice yet this spring.

Before Philomath had a chance to bat, the team faced a steep uphill battle with the 11-0 deficit. Lebanon, a team that went 24-6 last season and reached the 5A semifinals, added three more runs in the second and pushed across the 15th run in the third.

The home-team Warriors needed to score a run in the bottom of the third to avoid the mercy rule and did get their leadoff batter on base. Senior Grace Bennett worked a walk — the team’s only base runner of the game — but ended up getting caught stealing. The game ended following a ground-out and strikeout.

The visiting Warriors’ two pitchers allowed no hits and one walk with five strikeouts.

Senior McKenzie Hauck reacts after taking a swing. (Photo by Brad Fuqua/Philomath News)

“They had good pitching, good location,” King said. “We were able to catch up to it, we just didn’t put any solid hits out.”

In addition to those issues at the plate, Philomath’s pitchers also haven’t thrown to live batters, a factor that King said was also exposed.

“Our biggest deal was that our pitchers hadn’t seen a batter and that’s what really took us down today,” King said. “That and the nerves with the first game.”

In the field, Philomath also had some struggles and finished the game with three errors.

PHS center fielder Kaylie Kohler throws the ball in after making a catch near the fence. (Photo by Brad Fuqua/Philomath News)

Philomath’s highlight of the game came in the third when senior Adrianna Hunter struck out three batters. Freshman Brianna Ledbetter started in the circle. Senior Elizabeth Morales relieved with one out in the first and also pitched the second before Hunter came in for the third. The three pitchers allowed seven hits and 11 walks.

Tuesday’s game had been scheduled for 4:30 p.m. but was moved up 30 minutes so a junior varsity contest could be stacked behind it.

Philomath (0-1) will head to Junction City on Thursday. The OSAA schedule shows a 4:30 p.m. start.

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.

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