It may not have been pretty, but the Philomath High School softball team took care of winless Woodburn on Monday to set up a showdown with Newport this week for a possible berth in a Class 4A state tournament that athletic directors have put together to crown a champion of this short COVID-impacted season.
Newport and Philomath are within a half-game of one another in the Oregon West Conference standings and the winner will finish at least second. The Warriors defeated the Cubs, 10-6, back on April 26.
“It really all comes down to Wednesday,” PHS coach Travis King said after Monday’s 15-2 win over Woodburn. “I really hate to say this, but it always comes down to Newport. … We need to finish business there and I think that would put us in a pretty strong spot for that tournament.”
The game at Newport’s Yaquina View Elementary field is scheduled for a 4:30 p.m. start.
Newport is coming off an impressive 8-0 win on Monday over first-place Cascade. If the Cubs beat Philomath, they could stake claim to first place even if the Cougars beat the Outlaws. Both teams would have two losses under that scenario — Newport has played one fewer league game with a matchup vs. Woodburn canceled on May 3. They split the two-game season series.
But back to the Warriors. It would be quite a comeback if Philomath pulled out a tournament berth with the way the season had started with those lopsided losses to Sweet Home and Stayton. Since then, Philomath has gone 7-1.
Emily King, the coach’s daughter and one of three seniors who were recognized with their parents before the game, said the Warriors just needed to play some innings together to find a rhythm.
“We have three freshmen that are playing varsity and I’ve never played with them in my life so it was really hard to get that team chemistry going,” she said. “But as we went through the season, we started to feel that chemistry and that’s what’s carrying us through these last games.”
Kaili Saathoff and Kamden Combs joined King as the other two seniors playing in their final regular-season home games. The softball field was decorated with their uniform numbers in chalk in a tribute to their contributions to the program. The typical senior-recognition event was staged before the first pitch and Emily King believes those emotions carried over into the ballgame — in a bad way — along with not staying focused in a matchup against an obviously inferior opponent.
“I think we could’ve done better and treated it a little more seriously because we kind of knew we were going to come in with a win, but we could’ve done better,” she said. “It was emotional to start the night with senior night and everything and that kind of carried into the game I think a little bit.”
Base-running mistakes, fielding errors and hints of not playing hard cropped up against Woodburn, despite that final score that showed a 13-run Warriors advantage.
“Tonight was senior night so there were some emotions going on and running there,” Coach King said. “Then there were a couple of mistakes that shouldn’t happen ever, especially in a game like this … we were a little lazy.”
In recognition of Combs, who has been a dominant pitcher for PHS since her freshman season, the coach started her in the circle. After she struck out Woodburn’s leadoff batter on three pitches, King replaced her with freshman Ahnika Tryon. Combs moved to first base, her usual position when not pitching.
Despite those issues the coach mentioned, Philomath pounded out 15 hits at the plate in a game shortened to four innings for the Warrior offense. Saathoff went 3 for 3 with two triples and a double and King hit a three-bagger of her own, but junior Reagan Larson was just as potent as any senior with a 4-for-4 effort. Freshmen Melanie Baldwin and Presley Reichhuber each had a couple of hits.
Tryon and sophomore Adrianna Hunter both saw time in the circle after Combs’s three pitches. Tryon had five strikeouts and no walks while allowing just two hits and no runs for the victory.
The final regular-season home game was special to Coach King, who has coached his daughter in all but one season since she played on a 10-and-under team in youth softball.
“One thing I’ve told her is when you’re on the field, you listen, you do what you’re told,” Coach King said. “We’ve got a 15-minute drive on the way home and you can vent to me at any time. … We keep it off the field.”
Emily King said that she will indeed speak up, if needed, to get the perspective of the players across to her coach.
“I’m the one who stands up for the team and speaks my mind,” she said with a laugh.
Philomath 15, Woodburn 2 (5)
Monday, May 10 at Philomath HS
|DP: Woodburn 1. LOB: Woodburn 6, Philomath 6. 2B: Baldwin, Saathoff. 3B: King, Saathoff 2.|
Philomath 12, Woodburn 2 (5)
Monday, May 10 at Philomath HS
|JV GAME NOTES|
|The JV team goes to 9-4 on the season. … Kori Galvan went 3 for 4 with a double. … McKenzie Hauck finished 2 for 3 with two RBIs. … Grace Bennett was 2 for 3 with two RBIs. … Macy Freeman went 2 for 3 with a double. … Madison Barron also went 2 for 3. … Elizabeth Morales hit a triple. … Kelsey Olsen had a double. … Morales pitched three innings and allowed two hits and no earned runs with two walks and eight strikeouts. … Mackenzie Hiner pitched two innings and allowed one hit and one earned run with two walks and four strikeouts. … The team is scheduled to end the season on Wednesday at Newport.|
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