Team celebrates Saathoff homer
Kaili Saathoff celebrates with teammates after hitting an inside-the-park home run on Monday against Newport. (Photo by Logan Hannigan-Downs/Philomath News)

Going into Monday night’s pivotal Oregon West Conference softball showdown against first-place Newport, the Warriors knew they would be facing an ace pitcher. Cubs senior Hattie Imbler-Bremner, who plans to play college softball at North Idaho College, has been a force in the circle so far in this pandemic-shortened season.

Philomath’s bats were fairly silent early on with just two hits and six strikeouts through the first four innings. But the Warriors flipped a switch for seven hits and eight runs in the fifth and sixth innings to defeat Imbler-Bremner and the Cubs, 10-6.

“We needed this one big time,” PHS softball coach Travis King said. “I worked hard on batting this week with the pitching machine to get speed and the majority of the girls did well with that and they showed it tonight.”

The league standings are tight with Newport (5-2), Cascade (4-1), Philomath (4-2), Sweet Home (4-2) and Stayton (3-4) all in the hunt. It’s uncertain if there will be a Class 4A state tournament following the season but if happens, the Oregon West champ will get a berth in any format.

Kaili Saathoff, senior center fielder who hit an inside-the-park home run against the Cubs, said early on this season that the goal was to win the conference title.

“We don’t know what state looks like and everything’s up in the air at this point,” she said. “Win league (is the goal) and I feel like we’ve turned it around and put ourselves in a good position to do that.”

Saathoff points back to the postgame conversation and the embarrassment that players felt after losing at home to Sweet Home, 16-1, in the season’s home opener. The Warriors then lost to Stayton on the road, 12-4, but has turned things around with three straight wins.

Kyla Berger
Philomath’s Kyla Berger connects on a double against the Cubs. (Photo by Logan Hannigan-Downs/Philomath News)

King said the difference has come on defense. The Warriors kicked the ball around plenty in those two setbacks.

“We’ve set some goals and the girls have really taken to that,” King said. “They’re practicing 110% at their positions so they can tighten up all of their mistakes. We still have a few because we are moving players around with pitching changes but they’re getting better at it.”

In Monday’s game, Newport struck first with a run in the top of the first without getting a hit. Kalea Blodgett opened the game with a walk and would later score when Imbler-Bremner reached on an error.

In the bottom of the second, Philomath got something going when Melanie Baldwin smacked a double to the fence. She was able to get around the bases and score on a couple of groundouts.

While Imbler-Bremner might’ve attracted some attention at pitcher, Philomath’s Kamden Combs put together a pretty good performance of her own despite being slowed by a sore quadricep. Combs took a no-hitter into the fourth inning.

Philomath took a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the fourth. Reagan Larson opened the inning with a double and after sliding under a tag at third base, scored on a wild pitch. Newport came back to tie the game on a bases-loaded walk.

King decided to go to freshman Ahnika Tryon in the circle at that point in the game. Tryon had been effective in other appearances this season and Combs with the sore quad on her landing leg had thrown 108 pitches.

Reagan Larson
Philomath’s Reagan Larson went 3 for 4 in the victory over Newport. (Photo by Logan Hannigan-Downs/Philomath News)

Philomath got out of a jam and kept the game tied with two straight force-outs at home plate to end the fifth.

Then the Warriors’ bats came to life. Kyla Berger doubled down the right-field line to open the fifth and it served as a sign of things to come. Presley Reichhuber and Larson collected singles and Newport had a few miscues that led to Philomath taking a 6-2 lead into the sixth.

The Cubs got back a run to cut their deficit to 6-3 but the Warriors seemingly put the game away in the bottom half of the sixth with four more runs. Berger hit a one-out single, took second on an error and advanced to third on a wild pitch before scoring on a groundout.

Saathoff followed with an inside-the-park home run down the left-field line with a scorcher that got past the outfielder.

“I saw it go past the third baseman’s glove and (assistant coach) Adrienne (Engle) was waving me on to 2 and I glanced up and saw it was past her, she was just on the ground and I was thinking I could make it all the way,” Saathoff said.

Larson had another single and Emily King reached on an error to set the table for Baldwin. The hard-hitting freshman produced with a two-run triple to right field and a 10-3 lead.

The Cubs made things interesting in the bottom of the seventh and scored runs to make it 10-6. Newport loaded the bases and had the tying run at the plate when Tryon ended the game with a strikeout.

Tryon ended up getting the win, allowing four hits and two walks with three strikeouts in 2-2/3 innings.

“She’s hitting her spots, which is great, because it’s just a matter of the defense working behind her,” Coach King said. “That’s a huge deal that I’ve really hit home with — you have to back up your pitcher.”

Combs allowed just one hit and had seven walks with three strikeouts in her 4-1/3 innings.

At the plate, Larson was 3 for 4 and scored three runs, Berger finished 2 for 3 and Braldwin was 2 for 4 with three RBIs. Saathoff had a pair of RBIs.

Philomath will play again on Wednesday with a home game against Sisters. The first pitch is scheduled for 4:30 p.m.

Philomath 10, Newport 6
Monday, April 26 at Philomath HS
Newport (5-2)1000113656
Philomath (4-2)010144x1095
Blodgett, c1200
Schones, 3b5200
Imbler-Bremner, p4101
Murray, ss4021
Singler, 2b2000
Cleveland, lf2022
Baley, rf2000
Hart, ph1000
E. Schaffner, 1b2101
T. Schaffner, cf2000
Wiles, ph1000
Johnson, lf-2b4010
Saathoff, cf4212
Larson, c4330
King, 3b-ss4101
Baldwin, 1b-3b4123
Combs, p-1b4000
Tryon, ss-p3001
Lewis, eh3000
Berger, lf3220
Reichhuber, rf3111
Bennett, cr0000
Barron, 2b0000
DP: None. LOB: Newport 12, Philomath 9. 2B: Baldwin, Berger, Larson. 3B: Baldwin. HR: Saathoff.
Imbler-Bremner L6910609
Tryon W2.244023

Philomath 13, Newport 7
Monday, April 26, at Philomath HS
Philomath’s JV team improved to 3-2 on the season. … The Warriors trailed 5-2 going into the bottom of the fourth inning but then outscored the visitors 11-2 the rest of the way. … Kelsey Olsen went 4 for 5 with a home run and three RBIs to lead Philomath’s offense. … Lilly Oleman was a perfect 3 for 3. … Emma Hood, Macy Freeman and Elizabeth Morales each had two hits. … Freeman had two RBIs and Hood hit a double. … Adrianna Hunter got the start at pitcher went four innings, allowing six hits and two walks with five strikeouts. … Mackenzie Hiner threw three innings and allowed no hits and three walks with four strikeouts. She ended up as the pitcher of record with the win. … Philomath is scheduled to play a doubleheader at home on Thursday against Crow, a Class 1A school out of Eugene.