Coach Levi Webber has coached Philomath High to winning seasons in 10 of his 12 years as head baseball coach. (File photo by Brad Fuqua/Philomath News)

The Philomath High baseball team headed into its summer program in unfamiliar territory — coming off a losing record during the varsity spring season. The Warriors finished 11-14 overall and limped to the finish line with the season ending with a 5-0 play-in road loss.

It was the first time Philomath had finished below .500 since 2011 when the team had a 10-15 campaign. Levi Webber, who has a 63.4% winning percentage at PHS, has coached his teams to winning records in 10 of his 12 seasons.

So this summer, there was work to be done.

“The spring wasn’t what we anticipated or wanted as far as our standards,” Webber said. “So one of the big things that we focused on this summer was the mentality — the mental toughness, body language, attitude. Because some of those things weren’t where they needed to be in the spring and I think contributed to some of our lack of success.”

The team’s relatively young roster factored into the overall picture with 11 varsity members being either sophomores or freshmen. Webber got a good number to participate with the summer team.

“I was just working with the young kids and making sure that they were going in the right direction with the right energy and the right attitude and making sure they showed up the right way every day and playing the game hard,” Webber said. “And they did that and we won more games than we lost, which is always good.”

In a nutshell, it’s about player development.

“I was really pleased with what they showed this summer so I’m pretty excited about what we have coming back next year and what we can do,” Webber said.

Overall, the summer team had up to 19 participants in all with 13 or 14 being typical numbers for each game. Two starters from last year’s team, Mason Stearns and Grant Niemann, played for the Corvallis American Legion team.

“Those two got 35, 40 games in over there and got a bunch of at-bats against a little better competition, which is always good,” Webber said. “So they’ll come back better for that and I’m really excited about where we’re headed into next spring.”

Les & Bob’s won its final three games and finished the summer with an 11-8 record. Among players with more than 20 at-bats, Kash Lindsey had the top batting average at .419 and Rocco De La Rosa wasn’t far behind at .405. Silas Pittman had the best on-base percentage at .517. Lindsey also had a team-best .677 slugging percentage with six of his 13 hits going for extra bases.

On the mound, Logan Matthews, Wylie Griffith and Caleb Babcock got in the most innings. Matthews had the top ERA among those three at 3.38. All three of those pitchers had similar strikeout numbers. Griffith led the way with 42, Babcock mowed down 41 and Matthews fanned 38. Joe Barnes also showed better command with a 1.80 ERA, 2-0 record and 23 strikeouts in just 11-2/3 innings.

“For the most part, we threw a lot of strikes and competed really well,” Webber said, mentioning exceptional outings by Babcock, Matthews and Barnes. 

Babcock had 12 strikeouts in two of his last three starts, Matthews had a consistent summer and Webber said Barnes “took some big strides this summer.”

With Niemann playing with Gerding Builders, catching duties were handled most often by De La Rosa.

“Rocco really came on towards the end of the summer swinging the bat,” Webber said. “I really like what he does behind the plate … he threw out over 30% of the runners who tried to steal on him and for a high school kid, that’s phenomenal.”

Elsewhere in the field, the Warriors cut down on the number of defensive errors, a particular part of the game that often put Philomath in a hole this past spring.

“Defensively, we started to solidify some things so that was really, really good to see,” Webber said, adding that the team basically cut its error numbers in half.

A solid crop of incoming freshmen should also positively impact the program next spring.

“All in all, the summer was really good,” Webber said. “The kids were playing the game the right way, which is what you want to see, and then the individual efforts are starting to come along.”

History is in Philomath’s favor to turn the record around next season. The Warriors haven’t had back-to-back losing seasons since 1986-87. 

Softball limited with low numbers

Philomath High’s softball team wasn’t able to compete this summer with only a handful of players choosing to work out with the program. In recent years, Philomath had played Thursday doubleheaders over in Junction City for four straight weeks in June.

“We didn’t have enough players that were around to be able to commit and then with our incoming freshmen, most of their games were on Thursday and that’s when we usually played summer ball,” Warriors coach Travis King said.

King said most players had other commitments going on this summer and with the low participation numbers, he limited activities to Wednesday practices.

“We had an open-field type of thing but I worked on fundamental drills,” King said. “A lot of infield drills and we worked on some hitting with the girls. It worked really well actually. … On average, we had about eight girls be able to show up for that.”

The PHS softball team finished 5-19 this past season. King said the summer workouts provided a glimpse into the potential he anticipates seeing next spring.

“I think we have some talent coming through,” King said. “Especially this year and next year, we’re going to have a lot of talent coming into the program.”

(Brad Fuqua is publisher/editor of the Philomath News. He can be reached at

Brad Fuqua has covered the Philomath area since 2014 as the editor of the now-closed Philomath Express and currently as publisher/editor of the Philomath News. He has worked as a professional journalist since 1988 at daily and weekly newspapers in Nebraska, Kansas, North Dakota, Arizona, Montana and Oregon.