Discover more from Gilman on Sports
Bits & Pieces: June
Oregon BB/SB wraps up, prep sports fees are back locally, a personal view of FB coaching changes at Sprague HS and more!
This edition of Bits and Pieces is extra long—less bits and more chunks. Still, it was a busy, busy week or so of sports, and this writer was physically ailing, so apologies for the size of B & P. Here it comes.
State Prep Baseball and Softball Championships
It was a crazy weekend in Oregon for the conclusion of the 2023 high school baseball and softball championship games played over two days in three locations. And coming out of the action were several state titles for a handful of local teams.
The OSAA Baseball title games were split between Volcanoes Stadium in Keizer and PK Park in Eugene to deal with issues like team pitch counts and travel.
At the 6A level, West Linn brought home its second straight baseball crown with a 2-0 shutout of Jesuit at Volcanoes Stadium. Lions lefty Drake Gabel shutout the Crusaders by scattering six hits. He only gave up one earned run all year.
Jesuit right hander Noble Meyer---a projected top 10 pick in the major league draft—struck out 14 while giving up just two hits and one earned run. Meyer yielded just one run and one hit in a quarterfinal win over Sprague. The difference in the game was four errors committed by the Crusaders.
At PK Park, an inside the park homer in the eighth by Thurston’s Grady Sanders was the difference as the Colts nipped West Albany 2-1 in the 5A baseball championship.
Scappoose scored all their runs in the last three innings to rally past Pendleton 12-2 in six innings in the 4A championship at Volcanoes Stadium.
Back in Eugene, perennial sports power Banks generated three runs on seven hits, and got shout out pitching from Wyatt Hesselman to blank Cascade Christian 3-0 in the 3A title contest.
In the big game of the day at Volcanoes Stadium, unbeaten Kennedy of Mount Angel tied a state record with a season record of 31-0, besting a young Blanchet Catholic team 10-0 in a six inning affair in the 1A/2A championship game. The victorious Trojans pounded out 11 hits in the game, while starting pitcher Ethan Kleinschmit gave up just four hits to the Cavaliers. Blanchet also committed six errors in the contest.
The softball title games were hosted by Jane O. Sanders Park in Eugene, and there was plenty of excitement to be had in many of the contests.
In the 6A title game, an unearned run was the difference as Sheldon edged Oregon City 1-0. After an errant throw put Meara Sain aboard with one out. A sacrifice bunt was laid down, but during the play, umpires ruled that Oregon City had interfered with Sain as she rounded third base. Sain ran for home and was called out, but the ruling allowed her run to score, and the game was over. The outcome overshadowed the no-hit performance by OC pitcher Riley Lily. Sheldon’s Payton Burnham shutout the Pioneers while scattering four hits.
In the 5A title game, Dallas outlasted Lebanon 6-5 in an eight-inning marathon between two Mid Willamette Conference rivals. The Dragons’ winning run in the eighth came off a throwing error by the Warriors. The two teams combined to generate just 16 total hits in the game. Dallas won all three games vs. Lebanon during the season. The top-ranked Dragons finished the season with a record of 26-4.
The 4A softball game was a blowout. The Dalles scored 16 runs on 11 hits, and took advantage of five Henley errors, as the Riverhawks shutout the Hornets 16-0 in just five innings.
The 3A softball game played Friday was a marathon that went 12 (12!) innings. Burns came out with a 1-0 win over Scio. A wild pitch and a throwing error led to the winning run for the Hilanders, which finished the year with a record of 29-0. The Loggers finished the year at 24-2.
The 1A/2A softball title game was over early on Friday. Grant Union scored 10 runs on 12 hits, while yielding just three hits to Weston-McEwen in the 10-0 shutout called after six innings.
Athletic participation fees returning to Salem-Keizer in the 2023-24 school year
Over the past three years—during the COVID 19 pandemic—the Salem-Keizer School District used grant funding to waive athletic participation fees for families. Extracurricular activities have a positive impact on students and the district plans to continue offering a wide variety of athletic opportunities for students each season.
Changes in grant funding
Costs have increased and a change in the use of grant funds means those funds are not available at the same level moving forward. To lessen the gap in funding, the district is reinstating athletic participation fees in the upcoming school year (2023-24). Fees are used to fund coaches, game workers, facilities maintenance and repairs, equipment, transportation, sports officiating, and more.
With full awareness of the hardship that fees can place on families, district officials say the new fees are significantly reduced compared to prior years pricing.
High school athletics
For high school athletics, it will cost $125 for a first sport, which is $50 less than the last time fees were charged. The cost for a second sport is $75, which is $100 less than prior years. There is no charge for a third sport.
Middle school athletics
Middle school sports will be $40 for a first sport, $40 for a second sport, and no charge for a third sport.
Students with financial barriers
Students with financial barriers can pay a reduced rate of $50 per sport at the high school level and $20 per sport at the middle school level, with no charges for a third sport at either level. If the reduced rate presents too much of a financial barrier, students/families are encouraged to reach out to their coach or athletic director.
Western Oregon Showcase-Local Kid Does Good
An estimated one thousand prep footballers from across the country converged on the football stadium Saturday at Western Oregon University in Monmouth for the state’s largest training camp for high school players.
The WOU showcase also attracted dozens of coaches from across the nation. Among those there to not only observe but to speak included University of Oregon Head Coach Dan Lanning, and Oregon State Beavers Coach Jonathan Smith. Also in the mix were coaches from Washington, Washington State, Texas, Miami of Florida, Boise State and many more.
Players took part in one of three “training” sessions during the day-long event, with session Most Valuable Performers, and position MVPs announced by the event organizers.
There was one local standout at the Showcase whose efforts in Oregon are already very well known.
DL MVP: Hatimu Letisi, South Salem (Class of 2024)
As a junior, Hatimu was already a force that was both recognized and to be reckoned with. Selected as a first team All-Special District One defensive lineman, and honorable mention all-state, the 6-1, 250 pound Letisi is considered undersized as far as college d-linemen are concerned.
But according to SBLive-Oregon, which attended the showcase, the South Salem Saxon feared no one at the event. He reportedly “called out some of the camp's top offensive linemen for one-on-one reps and won nearly all of them.”
Hatimu’s showcase performance does two things for him: 1) makes him a player to be considered by some D-I football programs and 2) puts a target on his back during the 2023 prep football season.
Willamette University names new men’s basketball coach
After waiting weeks to reveal they had released their men’s basketball coach this spring, Willamette University has announced the hiring of their new men’s hoops headman.
Michael Lenahan, who had served as the head coach at Bard’s College of New York the last two seasons, will replace Kip Ioane, who was released as coach in April after 14 seasons at Willamette.
Lenahan comes to Salem after beginning the rebuilding of the men’s basketball program at Bard’s College, which went 0-24 in the 2019-20 season prior to his arrival in central New York state.
Lenahan has a long coaching resume’ that includes stops at Cal-Irvine, UC-Berkley, University of Redlands (CA), and Whitman College of the Northwest Conference.
Lenahan’s experience in the Northwest Conference was a key factor in his hiring, according to Bearcats Athletic Director Rob Passage.
The 34 year old Lenahan began his duties this past week at Willamette.
A passing of the football torch at Sprague High School
I have to share there is a bit of melancholy in my mood this week as my alma-mater, Sprague High School, bids farewell to its longtime football coach at the end of the school year, while welcoming in a fresh-faced headman to direct the Olympian squad.
My mood is tempered by the fact that I have known both coaches for quite a long time.
52 year old Jay Minyard, who directed Sprague the past 11 seasons, after stops at North Salem and McKay in Salem-Keizer, and South Albany High where he began his head coaching career—is going back to South Albany to become the school’s athletic director. I first met Jay in 1999 when he was hired as the Vikings’ head coach. I was entering my second year as a teacher at North.
Hired shortly after Minyard’s announced departure from Sprague is a man I first met when he was a toddler.
Now 34 years old, new Olympians AJ Robinson has been around football his entire life. His father, Robby, was head football coach at Silverton High School, Redmond High School and even Salem Academy. AJ was also a good football player himself, winning all conference honors at Redmond High. He moved on to Monmouth to have a solid career as a quarterback at Western Oregon University which was only hindered by injury his senior season. My father, Jerry, and I were broadcasting games for WOU during that time, and I got to meet the young guy who would become a coach shortly thereafter.
Robinson served as an assistant coach at both West Albany and Oregon City high schools, and in 2016—was named head coach at Churchill High in Eugene, where he had a record of 36-21, including a 12-1 record in 2017, when he directed the Lancers to the 5A championship game, where they lost to Hermiston 38-35.
Robinson stepped down at Churchill in 2022 after enduring the stresses associated with the COVID pandemic. He was intrigued about returning to coaching at Sprague—which has had a long tradition of winning.
I asked Minyard and Robinson if we could take a few photos to mark the transition of Sprague football. They both agreed. This is the first change in the football coaching position at Sprague since Minyard took over from legendary Coach Robin Hill, who retired in 2011. Hill began coaching the Olys in 1987. Full disclosure, my dad was the first head coach at Sprague, back in the fall of 1972. Lots of emotion involved for yours truly.
To be honest, there was very little serious conversation during our photo shoot. But my thoughts about the transition include several points:
1) This marks a generational change at the head coaching position for the Olympians. Robinson is a part of the Millennial age group—which is also the same age group as my daughters. Minyard is a Gen-Xer. Just ponder that for a moment.
2) There will be a shift in offensive philosophy at Sprague. Minyard wasn’t afraid to throw the football, but was a man who touted successfully running the ball as the key to success. His teams with a good ground game were always very good. He did adjust to his personnel and would throw the ball, but run-run-run was the first tool in his offensive playbook. Robinson is part of the spread offense school of his era that calls for a spreading of the field and passing the ball everywhere. Bubble screens are the run game for most spread offensive coordinators. Running can also be very effective, but doesn’t cover very many pages in the playbook.
3) The relative experience of the head coach includes a marked change. Minyard has a total of 30 years of coaching experience, including five years as an assistant. Robinson comes in with four years as an assistant, six years as a head coach—for ten years total. I am not worried about AJ’s experience differential. I anticipate he will have some more experienced coaches blended into the mix of his staff. No big issue—just something to note.
4) I have a new head coach to “train” when it comes to broadcasting games. Connor Astley at McNary has had to adjust in a similar manner. Obtaining stats and starters in advance, making time for a pregame interview—part of the craziness that will be addressed when media is added to the coaching mix. You got this, AJ.
All of this is to say:
Good bye, Jay—I will miss your Energizer Bunny enthusiasm and humorous quips! Good luck at South Albany. They are lucky to have you back as AD.
Welcome, AJ! I am very happy to see you added to the head coaching list that includes my dad and Robin Hill among others. Your work ethic is fantastic and I am certain you will endear yourself to staff and players in short order.
And at the risk of sounding brazenly partisan as a sportscaster, I will add: “Go, Olympians!”