Longtime head coach Levi Webber feels his baseball team needs to take advantage of an opportunity to hit the reset button on what so far has resulted in a sub-.500 record. The season came to a screeching halt over a two-week stretch this month with rain not only canceling games but forcing the team inside with workouts limited to the gym and batting cages.
A collection of photos from Philomath High’s 7-6 win on Tuesday, April 26, over Sisters.
“You could definitely tell there’s a little bit of rust,” Webber said after Philomath’s 7-6 win over visiting Sisters on Tuesday. “Like I told the guys when we were over in La Grande on Saturday, it’s almost like this is a reset to the season. I mean, it’s unprecedented to me since I’ve been here to have a two-week stretch where we didn’t even get on the field let alone play a game.”
As far as competition goes, Philomath had a 16-day stretch without any games from an April 7 doubleheader at Sweet Home to this past Saturday’s road trip to La Grande.
“You never want a layoff like that in the middle of the season because it can disrupt your timing,” Webber said. “Hopefully today, just to get a ‘W’ will get us back in the right frame of mind.”
The victory over Sisters gives Philomath a 6-1 record in the Oregon West Conference, which ties Stayton for first place in the loss column. Newport is a close third with two losses.
“We have the potential to make a run at the league title,” Webber said. “We’re deep enough on the mound … we have four or five guys that we feel real confident throwing out on the mound. Defensively, we were a little shaky today with a couple of balls that we let get past us … Offensively, we just haven’t found that consistency that we see in the cages.”
That’s been the main thorn in Philomath’s side — hitting.
“We get in the cages and we just smash the ball all over the place but for whatever reason, we get out in the game and haven’t been able to find that on a consistent level,” Webber said. “Hopefully, we can get that dialed up to where it needs to be.”
Sophomore Mason Stearns said batters need to develop a mindset that leads to more hits.
“We’re not very aggressive sometimes at the plate and we let the umpires dictate our wins and losses for sure,” he said. We can’t be inconsistent with the bats. We’ve got to keep scraping some hits together and getting the leadoff hitter on base.”
Philomath built an early lead against the Outlaws with two runs in the first inning. Cameron Ordway walked, Stearns singled and Alek Russell was hit by a pitch to load the bases. Ty May followed with a single to plate Ordway. Stearns later scored on an error.
In the third, the Warriors went up 4-0 on a two-run single up the middle by Logan Carter. David Griffith, who had singled, and Silas Barton, who reached on a fielder’s choice, both scored.
Philomath increased its advantage to 6-0 in the fourth inning. Griffith knocked in two runs on a single with two outs. Scoring on the play were Stearns, who had earlier singled to right field, and Russell, who had doubled down the third-base line.
But then Sisters started to get back into the game with three runs in the top of the fifth. Philomath had a few breakdowns on defense to help the opponent.
The Warriors picked up their seventh run in the bottom of the sixth when Stearns walked and later scored on a May grounder. That run would prove to be important with Sisters picking up three more in the seventh.
The Outlaws had the tying run in scoring position with one out but Brayden Shenk pitched out of it with back-to-back strikeouts to end the game.
Stearns and Russell both went 2 for 3 at the plate. May, Griffith and Carter each drove in two runs.
Stearns said he’s having a great time playing the game and believes his season is going well after coming back from a health issue that first came up during football season. Said Stearns, “It’s doing great — I’m 100% healed.”
Stearns started at shortstop against Sisters with Ordway on the mound. He moved over to third when Shenk relieved and Ordway went to his usual position.
“I do like playing third, especially when Cameron’s at shortstop and David’s at second,” Stearns said. “It’s nice to have a pretty good infield like that.”
Ordway threw five innings and allowed five hits and three walks with seven strikeouts. Shenk pitched two innings and allowed four hits and one walk with four strikeouts.
Reece Larrabee and Jamen Schwartz each had two hits for the Outlaws (7-11 overall, 2-8 Oregon West).
Philomath (7-8, 6-1) is scheduled to play a doubleheader at Sisters on Thursday to complete the series.
Webber believes the team is in a good place with about eight games to go in the regular season.
“I like our club, I like our talent, I like what we have,” he said. “It’s just a matter of playing up to our potential and getting hits when we need them.”