With one out in the fifth inning and two runners on base in a tight 1-1 ballgame at Terry Stephenson Field Monday afternoon, Newport sophomore Chris Jacobson laid down a bunt toward third base. Philomath players watched as it slowly rolled foul.
Gallery: PHS baseball vs. Newport (May 1, 2023)
A collection of photos from Philomath High’s 9-7 baseball loss to Newport in an Oregon West Conference game on Monday.
Moments later, Jacobson again bunted down the third-base line. This time, it stayed fair and the Cubs had loaded the bases. A walk followed to put Newport ahead, 2-1, and then junior Braxton Blaser blasted a grand slam to left-center field.
The series of events served as a turning point in the Oregon West Conference game between two longtime rivals with Newport surviving a late Philomath comeback for a 9-7 victory.
The Warriors (9-8 overall, 4-5 Oregon West) have struggled this season with the difference between winning and losing often coming down to those in-game moments like the slow-rolling bunt in the fifth inning.
Said PHS coach Levi Webber after the loss, “It’s been a little bit that way for us this year — it just seems like if it can go wrong, it goes wrong.”
On a more positive note, Philomath did regroup and came close to overtaking the visitors with six runs over the fifth and sixth innings. Newport (11-7, 5-5) escaped the threat, however, to take the first of the three-game league series.
The two teams are scheduled to meet at 5 p.m. Wednesday at Newport and 4:30 p.m. Thursday at Philomath.
Starting pitcher Brayden Shenk rolled through the first four innings with Newport only able to manage one hit against the Warriors senior. But the momentum dissipated in that fifth inning and by the time the third out had been recorded, Newport held a 8-1 advantage.
“It was unfortunate because I thought other than that one inning, Brayden did a pretty good job,” Webber said. “He was attacking the zone and working ahead but you miss a couple of pitches and they made him pay, you know, so hats off to them and credit to them for doing that.”
Newport’s leadoff hitter, sophomore Ethan Bruns, singled to left to open the game but he was thrown out by catcher Grant Niemann trying to steal second. In the bottom half, the Warriors loaded the bases on walks with just one out but couldn’t push anything across with back-to-back strikeouts to end the inning.
Errors led to a run in the second for the Cubs. Philomath had a chance to even the score in the bottom half when senior David Griffith worked a walk and then survived getting caught in a rundown when Newport was called for obstruction. He made it over to third but was stranded with two strikeouts and a pop-up ending the threat.
In the fourth, Philomath did pick up a run to tie the game but missed on an opportunity to score more with the bases loaded and no outs. Senior Chad Russell, who had reached on an error, scored the run on a fielder’s choice.
“We’ve just got to make sure that we get our opportunities and we take advantage of them,” Webber said. “In the first four innings, we had three different times when we had a runner on third with less than two outs and only one time we scored a run. … When you end up losing by two runs, those three runs right there ended up being pretty big.”
Philomath left nine runners on base in the game.
“Those are the things we need to learn from and make sure that we continue to get better,” Webber said. “Like I told them, right now our margin for error is just too thin to not get those opportunities. But I’m proud of the way we fought back and gave ourselves a chance.”
Newport followed with a seven-run outburst in the fifth. After Blaser’s grand slam, the Cubs added two more runs to their lead on a two-run home run by sophomore Tyler Mattson.
The Warriors worked themselves back in the game with three runs in the fifth and three more in the sixth. Philomath scored those three runs in the fifth all with two outs. Russell’s single drove in freshman Caleb Babcock and on the same play, a Newport error allowed sophomore Silas Pittman, a courtesy runner for Niemann, to reach home. Freshman Wylie Griffith followed with a grounder to shortstop that scored Russell.
In the sixth, junior Kash Lindsey, junior Mason Stearns and Babcock all had singles to produce more runs. Stearns collected an RBI on his hit and the other two reached home on errors.
Newport picked up another run in the seventh on a two-out wild pitch.
Shenk, sophomore Logan Matthews and sophomore Joe Barnes had relief appearances. Philomath’s six hits were scattered among six players.
Bruns had a 3-for-3 game for the Cubs at the plate. Senior Markus Everitt allowed three hits and six walks with seven strikeouts in five innings for the win. Freshman Ryder Hockema picked up a save.