One of three freshmen making an immediate impact this spring on the Philomath High School softball program, Melanie Baldwin has been routinely hitting home runs in practice. Heading into the season, coach Travis King showed excitement in a preseason interview about the “ton of power” that she brought to the plate.
Baldwin has been a productive hitter with a .382 batting average and .676 slugging percentage. As for home runs, she knocked one out for the first time this season during Philomath’s 10-6 victory on Wednesday over Stayton.
“I had been struggling earlier in the game. The first two at-bats weren’t my best and on that third one, I got robbed, it hit the top of the fence,” Baldwin said. “(On the home run), It felt really good coming off the bat and I just knew it was going to be out there.”
At the time of her dinger, Philomath (6-3) was hanging on to an 8-5 lead over Stayton. The Warriors had never trailed in the game but the Eagles were putting together a late-inning push. In the bottom of the sixth, junior Reagan Larson reached on a one-out single and two batters later, Baldwin gave the Warriors a 10-5 lead.
Stayton (6-7) got back a run in the seventh and brought the tying run to the plate with the bases loaded and two down, but another freshman, Ahnika Tryon, relieved Kamden Combs at pitcher and got the final out for a save.
“We’ve got a good connection with each other. When we’re on the field, we’re all family, that’s how you play the game, that’s how you win a game,” Baldwin said. “Tonight, we definitely out-hit Stayton … we had that one inning but we definitely picked it up and Ahnika came in and helped us with that win and that last out felt really good.”
When the change at pitcher was made, the infield’s configuration changed with Baldwin moving from first to third. The final play came her way on a grounder, which she grabbed and stepped on the bag for the game-ending force-out.
Baldwin has played third base on her travel team and gets most of her time with the Warriors over at first.
“It’s fun, it’s a lot of attention,” she laughed. “At third base, you only get so much but at first base, it’s almost every play, and it feels fun when you make those picks, those great outs. Like that one where I had to jump, that felt really good to catch.”
King had positive things to say about the team’s exceptional play over the past few weeks after getting off to a slow start this season.
“The chemistry’s really coming together and they’re pushing each other toward more success,” he said. “… Defensively, they’re really talking it up, they’re really understanding where they need to be and trying to get ahead of that point before they get there.”
Philomath took a 2-0 lead in the first inning with sophomore Mia Bennett at the plate. Bennett singled to left field to drive in senior Kaili Saathoff, who had led off the game with a single. Larson also came in when the left fielder made an error.
In the third, the Warriors added three more runs. Baldwin singled over third to score Larson, Bennett hit a double over the left fielder’s head to bring in senior Emily King and junior Kyla Berger put a ball in play to the shortstop while Baldwin scored.
Combs, meanwhile, appeared to be in a groove in the circle. Through four innings, she had allowed three hits and no walks with seven strikeouts. During one stretch in the second and third innings, the PHS senior fanned five straight batters.
Stayton started to get to Combs on its third time through the batting order in the fifth, although back-to-back PHS errors with one out didn’t help the cause. The Eagles pushed three across to cut the Warriors’ lead down to 5-3.
Philomath countered immediately in the bottom half and got those three runs back. Baldwin doubled to the center field fence — the one that said she was robbed on — and she would come around to score on a wild pitch. Freshman Presley Reichhuber, who had singled up the middle, then scored on an error when Berger reached. Berger later scored herself on another Stayton error for an 8-3 lead.
The Eagles scored twice in the sixth on a two-run bloop single that was just out of the reach of second baseman Ashlynn Barron. King thought about changing pitchers.
“I went out there and tried to take her out and she said, ‘no, I want to finish this,’” King said about Combs. “You have a couple of things that we could’ve done a little bit better to help her out more.”
Combs, who has been battling a nagging muscle strain, did have an effective performance in her 6-2/3 innings and she got the win with Tryon earning a save.
“Early on, she kept her pitch counts down and was really looking at ‘I can do this, I can make this whole game,’” King said. “If we can keep her pitch counts down, she’ll be all right.”
With the score at 8-5, Philomath’s Baldwin put the game away with her home run.
The Warriors had a dozen hits in the contest with Baldwin going 3 for 4 with three RBIs. Bennett was 2 for 3 with two RBIs. Saathoff and Larson both finished 2 for 4.
With the win, Philomath remains in contention for the Oregon West Conference title. The Warriors play a key game Thursday at Cascade. The Warriors handed the Cougars their only league loss on April 21.
Philomath 10, Stayton 6
Wednesday, May 5 at Philomath HS
|I. McCants, c||5||1||1||0|
|C. McCants, ss||4||2||2||0|
|DP: None. LOB: Stayton 9, Philomath 6. 2B: Baldwin, Bennett. 3B: HR: Baldwin.|
Philomath 11, Newport 4
Wednesday, May 5 at Philomath HS
|JV GAME NOTES|
|Philomath’s JV team goes to 7-4 on the season. … Trailing 3-1 after the first inning, the Warriors put up six in the second and four in the third to pull away. … McKenzie Hauck went 3 for 3 with two doubles, a triple and three RBIs. … Madison Barron was also 3 for 3 with three RBIs. … Kelsey Olsen finished 2 for 2 with a triple. … Adrianna Hunter was 2 for 2. … Elizabeth Morales had a double. … In all, the team collected 13 hits with seven of the nine batters getting at least one hit. … Morales threw four innings and allowed two hits, one earned run and three walks with five strikeouts. … Mackenzie Hiner tossed the last two innings and allowed one hit, no runs and one walk with five strikeouts. … The JV team is scheduled to play next on Monday at home vs. Woodburn.|
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