By Jeremy McDonald
AURORA, Ore.– It was just another day in the office for the Huskies of North Marion Friday evening on the Holy Grounds of Bob Brack Stadium for the 4A Quarterfinals Round.
For the first time since 2015, the Huskies have reached the Quarterfinals with them hosting Madras with North Marion looking for their first trip to the Final Four-round since 2014 at stake. But hey, the mantra for them is one-pitch-at-time against Joe High School.
They played their game, scoring when need be as they led 5-0 entering the fifth inning of play with Nic Iliyn and Andy Schmitz bringing in two RBIs each and Noah Vachter bringing in another with Trevor Ensign and the defense behind him quelled the bats of the White Buffaloes, holding Madras to just three hits entering the fifth inning.
“It’s a great feeling,” said Brady Hansen, who went 3-for-3 on the day for the Huskies on the strong start to the game. “It’s a good feeling, fun game to come out here and play.”
When Ensign came out of the game with an out on the board in the fifth inning, Milo Bilyeu came in for relief as he and eventually Grant Henry in the seventh inning, it became important for the bullpen to carry the momentum that Ensign started on the mound onto them as they tried to keep Madras from mounting a comeback.
“You know Trevor was pitching a great game and we were just keeping the momentum going, just trying to pass it from one guy to another,” said Bilyeu who pitched the next inning and two-thirds after Ensign. “On offense, we did everything we could to score and keep on them. It’s just the mentality.”
Over the final eight outs, the next two and two-third innings, North Marion played their game at one-pitch at a time as they entered the seventh inning knowing that they were just three outs away from advancing if they just do what they had to do over the next three outs.
Iliyn got the first out on a fly-out as a throwing error was quickly turned into an out thanks to a Sergio Jimenez tag-out at second base to cheers from themselves on the diamond to the Huskie fans in the stands.
They knew that the team in front of them was their main focus yes in a way, but it doesn’t matter because their main focus was on the game itself
“We get that motto a lot, everyday in practice (with) ‘Joe High School’. It doesn’t matter, we play the sport of baseball and not the High School,” said Jimenez. “And that’s what we’ve been doing and I’m hoping we do that in the Semi’s and State Championship.”
But Kyle Brooks would make Henry work and keep the North Marion defense on their toes with two outs on the board.
He fouled the first two pitches before taking a called ball on the third pitch of the at-bat. Henry was trying to find someway to end the at-bat with a strikeout or out in the field as Brooks fought off two more balls in the strike-zone into foul territory before Henry ended the six-pitch at-bat with a strikeout.
As Henry let out a brief holler and a smile and his teammates in the infield and outfield jumped in joy over the 5-0 victory to advance to the Semi-Final round for the first time since 2014.
Their next opponent, La Grande, they are familiar with dating back to the summertime when both teams met in the Single-A American Legion Postseason. They know that the Tigers are a good team as La Grande tries to defend their State Championship this postseason, it just comes down to what has made the Huskies so good this season on the diamond.
“We’re just playing Joe High School, we don’t really care who we play, we’re just going to come out and win each pitch at a time,” said Hansen.
“We know La Grande’s a good team, we played them in the summer. We just got to, same mindset (of) ‘Joe High School’ no matter who it is, just play the game of baseball no matter who it is,” adds Jimenez.
Photos By Jeremy McDonald