By Jeremy McDonald

AURORA, Ore.—When they arrived at Bob Brack Stadium at 10:30am for batting practice beforethe Single-A American Legion State Championship, North Willamette Valley knew they were in favorable position for that 2017 State Title.

But there was still a slew of nerves when they arrived and prepared for the start of the State Title game against Roseburg.
“We treated it like any other game, we knew that they had to come to us and beat us twice, so we had the upper hand and we knew that,” said Andy Schmitz.  “We felt good about it and we played it like any other game and it turned out in our favor.”
And as the game began, the Pepsi Bottlecaps jumped out to a 1-0 after the first inning, but it wasn’t necessarily nerves that was the problem, Roseburg was just a good ball-club as the teams enter the second inning.
Then, that’s when the bats, that have been so clutch and powerful these past few days, came around for the last time at home for the summer of 2017 when they put up their first of three crooked numbers of the game with five second inning runs to lead 5-1 with Griffin Henry coming back out to pitch.
“Well I knew our team was having a phenomenal weekend,” said Henry.  “And our mentality was that we’re not losing.  So it was huge, one through nine were great and I knew I just had to make good pitches and my defense has my back .”
After giving up one run in the first inning, the North Willamette Valley defense shutout Roseburg for the 12-1 victory Sunday afternoon (Picture By Jeremy McDonald)
Henry was on mark once more, keeping a Roseburg squad that scored ten against them Day Two of the tournament to one run in the game with the soon-to-be-junior striking out eight in five inning.

With parents cheering around them, North Willamette Valley increased their lead to 12-1 and saw Henry overcome a single and a walk to get a strikeout for the second out of the bottom of the fourth.  Then another two batters later to end the inning.

One of the parent leading the cheering section above the home dugout, pounding the roof and cheered whenever North Willamette Valley made a good play offensively or defensively, was the Henry twin’s father, Eric.

“We brought a little something special for today,” said Eric Henry.  “We saved it for today but we thought as the parents we needed to get on the train with all of these guys  and help them as much as we could by giving them a little extra sound from the dugout, or from the top of the dugout.”

And you could tell that with them and the jam-packed crowd that was there, was fueling the Boys of Summer on the diamond in front of them.

“Oh that was great,” said Nic Ilyin on Eric Henry and the parents cheering them on like they were.  “That just felt us more into…connecting and it just gave us more energy to keep going, and keep going.  Keep scoring runs, keep hitting the ball hard.”

Entering the bottom of the fifth inning, just needing three outs without allowing three runs that would continue the contest, NWV jogged out for what was possibly to come.

Griffin Henry struck out eight in a complete game, five inning performance (Picture By Jeremy McDonald)

Emotions were high as Schmitz got the first out on a shallow fly-out in the infield dirt before making a jumping catch for the second out.  It was that second out when it really got real on what was about to happen.

“Well after that second out, I mean it kind of got real like, ‘we’re going to win a State Championship right now and it felt great getting that third out  and that last out that Griffin got.  I mean he deserved it,” said Schmitz.

On the next playable ball, a grounder back to Griffin Henry at the mound and as Henry slowly turns around like slow motion for the throw out at first, you could tell that they knew that this dream was coming true as Hunter Schrenk captured Henry’s toss at first for the final out.

“It’s a great feeling to win a State Championship,” said Schmitz. “I mean that was in the back of my mind, I wasn’t even thinking about it.  All I was thinking about was how great we were playing during the game, being in the present moment and it worked out and we won a state championship and that’s all that matters.”

Bryce Lemon (6) and the Henry twins (second from left and right) going to give their coach the fame Gatorade bath after winning State (Picture By Jeremy McDonald)

Griffin Henry shared his excitement as well as they build momentum not just for Regionals, but for the Spring of 2018 as well.

“It’s awesome, it’s my first one so I’m really excited,” smiled Griffin Henry.  “We just got to carry it on all the way through summer, through league and then I know we’ll do fine.  We’ll do great this year.”

As for now, it’s Regionals in Eugene that starts Friday, and with them being the host team, they’ll play the late game versus Alaska to continue this Single-A adventure that they’ve been on.

“Just keep fighting, just keep fighting,” said Ilyin.  “No matter if we’re down, just keep fighting, there is always a chance no matter what inning it is or how many outs, there’s always a chance to keep going to keep fighting.
“As long as we have that fight, we’ll do well in Regionals.”

Score By Inning                     1   2   3   4   5   —  T   H     E

North Willamette Valley      0   5  2    5   0   — 12  14   0

Roseburg Pepsi                       1  0  0    0    0   —  1  4     1

Follow Jeremy McDonald on Twitter at @J_McDonald81 or like jmcdonaldmedia on Facebook!

Photos By Jeremy McDonald


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