Cameron Ordway
PHS senior shortstop Cameron Ordway throws to first during Friday's home opener against Henley. (Photo by Brad Fuqua/Philomath News)

With only two practices from the end of basketball season leading into the baseball opener, four key players in the lineup didn’t have much of a chance to catch their breath. On Saturday, they were driving in for layups down in Coos Bay and on Wednesday, caught a road trip up to Gladstone to face one of the toughest teams in Class 4A.

On Friday in Philomath’s home opener, the quality of competition didn’t get any easier with another top 4A school, Henley, on the schedule. The Hornets were able to pull off a 7-4 win to drop the Warriors to 0-2.

“Right now, I think we’re basically working on the little things,” Philomath High senior Cameron Ordway said. “A lot of us are coming off basketball and we just haven’t gotten down the fundamentals yet and we’re struggling reading the ball on both sides of the field.”

Five players on the basketball team are starters on the baseball team — although Logan Carter is out indefinitely with a severe ankle sprain.

Neither team threatened through the first two innings. Philomath starter Skylar Brolin walked one in the first and gave up a single in the second but nothing developed for the Hornets. In fact, Ordway turned a double play to end the second inning.

“I like how we moved around defensively,” PHS coach Levi Webber said. “Cam looked really good at short today and our infield for the most part did a good job other than a couple of small mistakes.”

Henley took a 2-0 lead in the third inning with a Philomath error and wild pitch contributing to the visitor’s cause. But the Warriors countered with two runs of their own in the bottom half.

Junior Chad Russell opened the frame with a single although he was caught stealing while a teammate struck out. Senior Blake Niemann sparked the offense, however, with a double down the third-base line. Ordway then delivered with a single to plate Niemann. Senior Carson Gerding followed with an infield single that Ordway got home on.

The game remained 2-2 until the sixth inning. That’s when Henley struck for two more runs on three singles with an error and a wild pitch worked in.

“We had too many little errors that allowed them to have extra bases and extra opportunities,” Webber said.

Philomath tried to answer in the bottom half and got two aboard with two outs on a Ty May single and Alek Russell getting hit by a pitch. But the inning ended on an infield grounder that led to a forceout.

The Hornets piled on three more runs in the top of the seventh to take control. Henley actually had only one hit but two walks, two errors and a wild pitch hurt the Warriors. Philomath made things interesting in the bottom half by scoring two runs. Chad Russell opened the inning with a walk but he was forced out on a Henley play from third to second while Kash Lindsey reached on a fielder’s choice. John McCombs followed with a single.

Mason Stearns, Cameron Ordway, Kash Lindsey
Third baseman Mason Stearns runs down a Henley base runner after taking the ball from shortstop Cameron Ordway, right, with Kash Lindsey covering second. (Photo by Brad Fuqua/Philomath News)

That brought up the top of the order with Ordway hitting a sacrifice fly to left to plate Lindsey. Grant Niemann, who came in as a pinch runner for McCombs, later came around to score. Gerding also had a single in the seventh with two outs and reached third but he was stranded there with the game ending on a strikeout.

The Philomath offense has been inconsistent over the first two games with a team batting average of .220.

“We haven’t been able to read the ball very well out of the pitcher’s hand … we’ve just got to work on just reps, I think, in practice,” Ordway said.

Webber said the team played much better than the season opener on Wednesday.

“I thought we should’ve been able to get to that guy a little bit more offensively early on,” Webber said about Henley’s pitcher. “I mean, he competed well but I think we let him off the hook a couple of times, especially with the top of our order coming up. That’s just it being early in the season and us working our way back into it.”

Philomath had eight hits in the game with Chad Russell going 2 for 2 and Gerding finishing 2 for 4. Ordway drove in two runs.

Skylar Brolin
PHS senior pitcher Skylar Brolin delivers a pitch in the second inning against Henley. (Photo by Brad Fuqua/Philomath News)

On the mound, Brolin pitched into the seventh inning. He finished at 6-1/3 innings and 99 pitches with six hits, three earned runs and four walks with three strikeouts. Brayden Shenk came in to get the final two outs.

“Skyler pitched well enough to win today,” Webber said. “Like I told our guys on Wednesday, I thought we pitched well enough to win that game, too. Again, we just made a few too many errors and made a few too many mistakes.”

Philomath will next head to the Newport Spring Break Tourney on Monday against Crescent Valley and on Tuesday against Dallas and Astoria.

“That’s going to be more tough opponents but it’s good for our guys — they want to play the high-caliber (teams),” Webber said. “I think playing against good teams, it’s only going to increase your urgency to get better in a timely manner.”

In the OSAAtoday coaches’ preseason poll, the Warriors were ranked No. 10 in Class 4A with Gladstone at No. 6 and Henley at No. 7. Crescent Valley was ranked No. 3 in 5A.

“It’s just hopping right back into it, getting after it and making sure we shore up some of those small things and give ourselves an opportunity,” Webber said.

The Warriors will then meet Hidden Valley — No. 1 in that preseason coaches’ poll — on March 26 in a game to be played at Cottage Grove before launching into their first Oregon West Conference games.

“It felt great to be back out here with the team,” Ordway said, “but we’ve got some cleaning up to do.”

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.