The Philomath High School baseball program could finally breathe a sigh of relief and do a little celebrating on Wednesday evening at Stephenson Field following the completion of a doubleheader sweep over Newport.
The victories of 6-2 and 10-1 clinched at least a tie for first place in the Oregon West Conference for Philomath and with the season series advantage over Stayton, the Warriors have earned an automatic berth into the Class 4A playoffs.
A collection of photos from the second game of a baseball doubleheader between Philomath and Newport on May 11.
Philomath (13-9 overall, 12-2 Oregon West) turned around its season in quick fashion following a 10-0 loss early last week at home against Stayton. The Warriors struggled in all facets of the game in that one and with two more to play against the Eagles followed by a three-game set against Newport, the odds did not seem to be in Philomath’s favor.
But the Warriors are now on a four-game winning streak against the top competition in the conference.
“I think that was a big wakeup call for us,” Cameron Ordway said about the 10-0 embarrassment. “We finally decided that we’re done losing and we wanted to win the whole thing (league title), so we came ready to play.”
Philomath will now try to win the conference title outright by sweeping the Newport series with a game at 11 a.m. Saturday on the coast. If the Cubs pull out a win, the Warriors would officially end up on paper as co-champions with Stayton. However, the Eagles would likely also earn an automatic berth to state with a high OSAA ranking. The six conference champions plus the two highest-ranked runner-up teams fill the top eight spots in the bracket.
Sixteen other teams will then square off in the play-in round to try to advance into the other eight available state playoff spots.
It’s been a challenging season for Philomath. The Warriors opened this spring by losing four straight and had a 2-6 record at one point before stringing together some wins in late March into early April.
“We were scared starting out with that tough schedule and taking all of those losses but I’m glad we battled back and decided to play,” said Ordway, who hit two solo home runs in Philomath’s second win Wednesday against the Cubs. “We decided to finally focus … we were definitely not on topic for a lot of things baseball-wise and we decided to focus on playing the game.”
Even though losses were piling up, Philomath was competitive against several of the top 4A teams in the state. Gladstone, Henley, Hidden Valley, La Grande and Baker were among the 4A schools that have defeated Philomath this season in nonleague games and those programs have a combined 89-27 record.
“We all got in each other’s heads and just started really harping on each other that if we’re going to do it, this year is the year,” said pitcher Skylar Brolin, who got the win in Game 2. “We’ve all been talking about it and we were like ‘let’s do it’ and so we kind of just picked it up and got to it.”
The 4A rankings freeze on May 16 and play-in games follow next week. The first round of the state playoffs are scheduled for May 25.
Philomath’s wins over Newport, a team that still had a chance of its own to nab the Oregon West title, were both impressive. In the first game, the Warriors took a 6-0 lead into the seventh inning before surrendering a pair of runs late.
Junior David Griffith was on the mound and he went five innings, allowing six hits, no runs and four walks against four strikeouts. Junior Brayden Shenk threw the last two innings and struck out four.
Griffith helped his own cause at the plate in the four-run win. In the first, he singled, stole second, moved to third on a wild pitch and scored on a Ty May single to get the offensive ball rolling. He also had a two-run double in the sixth to put the home team on top, 6-0. Griffith ended up going 3 for 4 with two RBIs and a double.
Philomath scored two in the second for a 3-0 lead. Ordway and Carson Gerding both had one-run singles.
The score remained 3-0 into the sixth inning when Philomath pushed three more across. Ordway hit a sacrifice fly to drive in one run and Griffith followed with his double to drive in two more.
Besides Griffith, other top hitters in the Game 1 win were Brolin at 2 for 2 and Gerding at 2 for 4. Ordway had a pair of RBIs.
In the second game, Philomath trailed 1-0 early but quickly tied it up in the bottom half of the first when Ordway led off with a solo home run to left field. In the third, the Warriors added two more on Ordway’s second home run — hit to the same spot in left field — and when Griffith worked a bases-loaded walk.
A couple of errors and a walk helped the Warriors put up more runs in the fifth. May put down a sacrifice bunt to score Gerding. Alek Russell later scored on an error and Griffith scored on a Chad Russell single.
In the sixth, PHS scored four more runs. Logan Carter, Jacob Williams, Alek Russell and Griffith each had singles. Williams had a dramatic moment with his first plate appearance of the season — he’s been injured — with a one-run single. Although hobbled, Williams ran the bases and later came around to score when May reached on an error, sliding head first across the plate.
Alek Russell also had a one-run single in the inning and later scored on a Chad Russell grounder.
Brolin threw a complete-game seven-hitter with one walk and nine strikeouts. Brolin’s been in the zone at pitcher, including a no-hitter on April 28 at Sisters.
“I got injured early on and had a shoulder issue so I was out for like half a season and then finally came back in to get a couple of starts and got back on it,” Brolin said.
At the plate in Game 1, Ordway went 2 for 3 with the two RBIs on his home runs and Carter finished 2 for 3.
The team’s seniors were recognized prior to the doubleheader. They include Brolin, Carter, Gerding, Blake Niemann, Ordway, Alek Russell and Williams.