Cinderella Celtics advance to 6A baseball quarterfinals
#25 McNary rallies to nip #9 South Salem 6-5; #1 West Linn is next Friday
The McNary Celtics baseball team had a record of 2-11 in late April, and were going nowhere fast. The squad had dealt with a huge number of key injuries that made it tough to compete effectively for an entire game.
But key players slowly came back on the field, and with the return of those front-line players came a slow revival of team confidence.
That confidence was in evidence Wednesday night at Willamette University’s John Lewis Field, as the #25 Celts rallied from a 5-1 deficit in the second inning, to claim a 6-5 victory in round two of the OSAA 6A baseball playoffs. McNary will go on the road to face top-ranked West Linn on Friday.
McNary coach Larry Keeker was obviously emotional after the gut-wrenching victory. He said the late game heroics mirrored the season for his team.
“The year was definitely a challenge for us,” he said, citing the multiple injuries, juggling of line-ups and admitted overwhelming losses to top teams during the entire month of April. That included a three-game sweep by South Salem and a 12-1 loss to their next playoff opponent, West Linn.
“The challenge was always how we remain locked in and positive, and try to look forward instead of behind us… it was hard to believe in that message until you have some success.”
Keeker says that when junior Carter Holley came back after being injured for more than a year, and pitched well in a Celts win over West Salem—the team began to believe it could win again.
It was nothing spectacular, but the team that started 2-11 won the bulk of its late games, aside from a sweep by top-10 Sprague. McNary won three straight tune up games heading into playoffs, then went on the road to edge Lincoln of Portland, 5-4, on Monday.
The game Wednesday on South’s designated home field for the year was a daunting task. Early it appeared that McNary might have some early success. South’s Cole Weiland—who walked seven for the game before being relieved in the fifth inning—got a fly ball out to open the first inning, but then hit a batter, followed by two walks. That loaded the bases with one down.
But South got out of the inning on a stunning 5-2-3 double play, forcing out the lead runner, Anthony Cepeda, at home and gunning down the batter, Jordan Araiza, to escape unscathed.
The Saxons pushed across a run in their half of the first on an RBI single by Braedy Vogt, and then added four more runs in the second inning, helped by a Celtic error.
McNary starting pitcher Andrew Hammond gave up a lead-off single in the second to South’s Kevin Semm, but recorded two straight outs on a fly out and a strike out. Noah Scharer singled to put runners at the corner. McNary appeared to have the third out recorded when Jesiah Bartlett picked up a routine ground ball—but his throw was off line and South scored a run and had two runners aboard. The Saxons then proceeded to push across three more runs to take a 5-1 lead.
Hammond was lifted in the frame late in favor of Jordan Araiza on the mound. After the second inning was over, Araiza was all but untouchable—walking two the rest of the way, but allowing no runs or hits.
McNary began scrambling for runs—picking up one in the third, followed by three big scores in the fourth inning. After South’s Weiland issued a pair of walks to open that frame, Jesiah Bartlett singled to load the bases. Two ground balls each brought one run home, then an error on a pickoff throw added one more run to tie the game before the Saxons got out of the inning.
The teams were scoreless through the fifth and sixth innings.
In the top of the seventh, Araiza drew a lead off walk for McNary, then was advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt by Ben Allen. On the next play, South catcher Teagan Scott’s pick off throw to second was high—ending out in center field—and Araiza came all the way home to score. The Celts led it 6-5.
McNary then squelched any hope for a Saxon rally by recording a pair of fly balls to the outfield and a ground out to preserve the victory. The entire Celtic team stormed the field in celebration.
“Somehow, we chipped away (at the deficit), and we got some good production from the bottom half of the line-up,” said Keeker, pausing to compose himself.
“It’s hard to describe sometimes, but it’s a really good feeling.”
The glass baseball cleats fit McNary nicely for Wednesday’s game—as they scored the runs they needed before the stroke of midnight. Now the Celtics (10-16) will have to do it all over again versus the top-ranked 6A team in Oregon—West Linn (23-6)—on Friday.
Sprague 6, Sherwood 5: The second-round baseball playoff matchup at Sprague High School was tightly contested all game long. But the seventh-seeded Olympians ended it with a dramatic lead-off home run in the bottom of the seventh inning to move on to the quarterfinals Friday.
The winning blow came off the bat of Central Valley Conference player of the year Brandon Stinnett, who was the first player up for the host Olys in the last inning. His shot sailed over the left center field fence for the one-run victory. It was his second HR of the contest.
Tenth seeded Sherwood ends its season with a record of 24-5.
Sprague is on the road in quarterfinal round, traveling Friday to #2 seed Jesuit.
6A Softball Results-Round Two
South Salem 10, Westview 0: Sixth-seeded South Salem rode the arm of pitcher Rowan Thompson, and pounded out plenty of offense, blanking eleventh seed Westview of Beaverton, 10-0 in just six innings.
Thompson—the CVC pitcher of the year and commit-ee to the University of Oregon—yielded just two hits while striking out 12 in the victory at South Salem High.
South coach Scott McCormick says the defense behind his hurler was solid, led by rally-killing plays by both Desi Hatfield and Payton Bradley.
Offensively, Thompson helped her own cause with a pair of RBIs. She received plenty of support from Hatfield, who doubled, recorded and RBI and scored twice—as well as MacKenzie Scott, who had two hits, two RBIs, and two runs scored.
The Saxons (22-5) will have a long trip to their quarterfinal match up Friday—playing at third seed South Medford (24-6).
Sherwood 5, McNary 3: The twelfth-seeded Celtics (19-8) had beaten #5 Sherwood once this season, but six weeks after that 7-3 victory on the road, McNary couldn’t find enough offense in falling at Sherwood (21-6) on Wednesday—the final count was 5-3.
Last season, McNary made it to the semi-finals before falling to eventual state champion Tigard. Sherwood will play in the quarterfinals at Pacific Conference rival and fourth seed McMinnville on Friday.
Great report and wonderful photos. So when ARE you going to retire? You are working your a#% off! And I am glad😉