Walking up to the plate with one on and two outs in the bottom of the ninth, Eastern Oregon’s Austin Gerding had to realize that he was about to make his final plate appearance.
The former Philomath High School baseball standout had been through a lot leading up to this moment. The torn labrum injury that forced him to miss the 2019 season with Chemeketa Community College. Then after rehabbing and getting back into playing shape, COVID shortened the 2020 season after just 12 games.
Gerding continued to deal with a nagging arm problem and the pandemic limited his visibility to transfer to a four-year school. Eastern Oregon reached out, however, and Gerding ended up on the La Grande campus to continue his education and playing career.
Gerding hit .264 during his junior campaign and has struggled at the plate this spring. Heading into an April 29 doubleheader against College of Idaho to end the season, Gerding’s batting average was just .198.
In the first contest, Gerding went 3 for 5 and in the nightcap, the rhythm remained intact as he went 2 for 4 — ballooning his batting average 31 points to .229.
So what about that final plate appearance? Another senior, Adrian Roa, had reached on a fielder’s choice and sophomore Rogelio Gonzales came in as a pinch runner. Unfortunately for the Mounties, the opponent had an 11-4 lead, so the game’s outcome was pretty much out of reach.
Gerding, batting cleanup, had no intentions of making the final out. In a dramatic finish to his collegiate career in front of his parents, he homered on a 1-1 pitch to left center.
Quite a finish for No. 23.
Gerding plans to remain in baseball as a coach.
Matta moving on from PHS
Tony Matta, athletic director, former football coach and assistant principal at Philomath High, will be headed to South Albany next school year to fill an assistant principal position.
Matta’s heart has always been with South Albany — he’s worked on the campus on two previous occasions during his career in education and his sons earned their high school diplomas there. In all, he’s worked 20 years at the school in two previous stints.
Matta, 57, said his time at Philomath allowed him to gain significant administrative experience, although he’s also been heavily involved in athletics. In his new position, he’ll be able to wear only the administrative hat.
“When I return to South Albany, I take the athletic piece off my plate and delve more into just the administrative work in general in terms of working with students and teachers,” he said. “My goal at some point in the next couple of years is that principal’s job at South Albany will probably open up and I would be interested in that.”
Matta remains on contract with Philomath through the end of the fiscal year on June 30.
Saathoff earns league honors
Linfield sophomore Kaili Saathoff earned a spot on the Northwest Conference’s first team — one of nine Wildcats to make the list.
Saathoff opened this season as a designated hitter with the NCAA Division III school but worked her way into starting duties at first base. She led the conference in hitting with a .450 batting average and 60 runs and was tops in all of Division III with 68 hits. During her freshman season, Saathoff hit .310. In high school with the Warriors, she was the Oregon West Player of the Year during her senior season and had a .459 career batting average.
The Wildcats are having a stellar season with a 41-4 record and No. 4 national ranking. Linfield is waiting for the tournament pairings to be announced on May 15. The NCAA Division III Championships are scheduled for May 18-20.
Saathoff is studying mathematics at the McMinnville school.
(Brad Fuqua is publisher/editor of the Philomath News. He can be reached at News@PhilomathNews.com).