Philomath sophomore Mason Stearns came up with perhaps the biggest hit of his young high school baseball career with a one-run single in the top of the fifth inning that turned out to be the game-winner in a 2-1 victory Wednesday over Stayton.
The Warriors and Eagles are now tied for first place in the loss column in the Oregon West Conference and are scheduled to play the series finale Thursday afternoon in a game that could go a long way in determining the league champion. Newport remains in the picture a game back in the standings and the Warriors will face the Cubs for a three-game set next week.
After falling to Stayton, 10-0, on Tuesday afternoon, the Warriors found themselves with their backs to the wall if they wanted to remain in conference title contention. Philomath answered the bell with a strong outing by starting pitcher David Griffith and improved defensive play behind him.
Griffith threw a complete game and allowed just five hits against a capable Stayton offense while walking two and striking out six.
The Eagles (16-5 overall, 12-2 Oregon West) looked as though they might pick up right where they left off Tuesday. Stayton’s first batter of the game, Nick Frith, reached on a single and advanced to second on a throwing error. Frith then stole third and scored on an Eli Brown single to give the Eagles an early 1-0 advantage.
But that would be it for the home team. Stayton managed only three more hits the rest of the game against Griffith’s arm.
Philomath tied the score in the top of the fifth. Cameron Ordway knocked his second double of the game to lead off the inning. He moved over to third on a sacrifice bunt by Carson Gerding. Stearns followed with a hard grounder up the middle and Ordway easily scored.
In the sixth, Kash Lindsey opened the inning with a single to left and he moved over to second when Blake Niemann laid down a sac bunt. With one out and first base open, Stayton chose to intentionally walk Ordway, who went 3 for 3 on the afternoon.
After a strikeout for the second out, Stearns came through with a clutch hit on a single to right field. Lindsey scored from second for the go-ahead run.
Griffith hit a batter in the sixth, otherwise, the Eagles went down on three fly outs — one to Niemann in right and the other two to Gerding in center. In the seventh, Griffith struck out the first two batters, gave up a single and then ended the game with a fly out to Niemann in right.
The Warriors (10-9, 9-2) had nine hits for the game. Along with Ordway’s effort, Stearns finished 2 for 3 with those two big RBIs and Lindsey was 2 for 4.
Thursday’s game had been scheduled to be played in Philomath but with a steady rain through most of the day, the schools agreed to move the matchup to Stayton.