Philomath High School’s baseball team needed this one.
After dropping three straight league games, the Warriors put a stop to the bleeding in front of their home fans with a 14-4 victory Wednesday over Cascade. Philomath’s bats found some life and combined with exceptional performances on the mound and sound play in the field, the Warriors (9-6 overall, 4-3 Oregon West) could finally put another notch in the win column.
Gallery: PHS baseball vs. Cascade (April 26, 2023)
A collection of photos from Philomath High’s 14-4 baseball win over Cascade on Thursday.
LiveBlog: PHS baseball vs. Cascade (4/26/23)
Join Philomath News publisher/editor Brad Fuqua for live coverage of Philomath High’s Oregon West Conference baseball game against Cascade.
Veteran coach Levi Webber made some changes with his lineup.
“I think we just needed to shake things up a little bit, get some guys in the lineup and maybe open some people’s eyes about what we want to see,” Webber said. “To our guys’ credit for everybody who stepped into the lineup today, they responded.”
Webber played with his batting order and also made some defensive changes. The most visible were seen in the infield with freshmen Rocco De La Rosa and Wylie Griffith at third and second, respectively. For De La Rosa, it was his first-ever varsity start.
“It was really, really good to see them respond that way after the last couple of days,” Webber said. “Offensively this week, we’ve been really lacking so to come out and get nine or 10 hits and hit a lot of balls hard … It was a really good effort today.”
Down 1-0 in the first, Philomath responded with four runs. Logan Matthews led off with a single and eventually came around to score when Mason Stearns reached on an error. Caleb Babcock then singled and Grant Niemann hit a sacrifice fly to center to make it 2-0. Later in the inning, Griffith singled up the middle to drive in two more runs.
Philomath scored three more in the second. Niemann hit a double in the left-center field gap to drive in a run for a 5-2 lead. Niemann scored when Chad Russell reached on an error. Griffith then picked up another RBI with a one-run single to center.
The Warriors put up six runs in the third inning to take control of the game. Errors and walks provided the fuel for most of those runs. Russell highlighted the inning with a bad-hop single through third base to drive in two runs.
Philomath ended the game early on the mercy rule with no outs in the fifth on a one-run single by Griffith.
Russell acknowledges the team’s struggles to establish any sort of consistency this season.
“I honestly don’t know what’s going on because we haven’t faced anybody who should’ve outright beat us,” Russell said. “I would say Stayton did a good job yesterday (Tuesday) but we didn’t show up to play at all. Our team is just up and down; it’s not going very well right now.”
Griffith and his teammates hope Wednesday’s victory will get the squad headed in the right direction.
“I would hope it would be pretty good right now knowing that we just 10-runned them,” Griffith said about the team’s mindset, who was making his third start this season — the first two coming on the road. “Hopefully today gives us a little bit of a confidence boost … and play better since we lost to Stayton (on Tuesday).”
Griffith spoke loud with his bat in the midweek victory with a 3-for-3 effort with four RBIs.
“I was looking at our (batting) averages and Wylie was still hovering around the .300 before he even came into today and even as a freshman, all of his at-bats had been really good early in the season,” Webber said. “I was like, shoot, I might as well get him back in there and see if he can do some things.”
Griffith raised his batting average from .292 to .370.
Russell also produced at the plate against the Cougars with a 2-for-4 performance with three runs and two RBIs. His double in the fifth inning set up Philomath with base runners at second and third and no outs. Griffith followed with his walk-off single.
“I’ve been up and down but I’m feeling pretty good on the field,” said Russell, who played left against Cascade. “All the way around, we really have done pretty good out in the field.”
Freshman Joe Barnes started and despite Cascade (3-13, 1-7) scoring single runs in each of the first four innings, he took a no-hitter deep into the contest. Taye Crumley broke it up to lead off the fourth. Barnes allowed two hits, two earned runs and four walks with six strikeouts.
“Joe, he’s going to have some control issues because he’s young and he’s got a live arm but he’s starting to harness it in more and more,” Webber said. “The thing that impressed me the most and what I’m most proud of for is that he’s pitching himself out of jams … He’s been able to settle himself down.”
Philomath had accomplished a rare defensive feat in the fifth inning by catching two Cascade base runners in rundowns. With no outs and a runner on first, Babcock during a relief appearance on the mound made an effective pickoff attempt while Braden Johnson took off for second. First baseman Ty May made the throw to Stearns, who was covering second, for the out. Later in the inning, Teagen Allen got caught in a rundown with May making the tag to end the inning.
“Caleb’s got a pretty good move,” Webber said. “He’s a freshman lefty and he can put a move on a guy on first, so yeah, we got a couple. It makes things easier when they can’t get to second after they get to first. It was good to see.”
Philomath will try to win the season series on Thursday with a 4:30 p.m. game at Cascade.