By Jeremy McDonald
MONMOUTH, Ore.– North Willamette Valley knew they had their hands full when they entered the Triple-A American Legion realm after a successful Single-A campaign that saw NWV reach the Regional Round after winning State in 2017. But the team consisting of all returning-North Marion High School baseball players for 2019 that were some Varsity starters and some Junior Varsity players on this past Spring’s North Marion Huskie program were ready for the challenge of the summer.
“Our coaches biggest goal was for all of us to get better and Triple-A is the best way to get better. You see all the best competition, so it prepares us for next season,” said Griffin Henry on playing up against the Triple-A competition as he enters his Senior season at North Marion.
“When we decided we were going to be playing Triple-A, we decided that we were going to come out and compete every game no matter what the score is or the situation, we’re going to come out and compete,” adds Brady Hanson as the incoming Huskie Junior and the NWV went 9-10 in the regular season. “And I think we did a really good job of it this summer. We competed well, and we really didn’t let things bother us when we got down and we played well I thought.”
For Post 20, the team that North Willamette Valley was facing in the Super Regional with a change to advance to the State Championship Series, they were looking to return to the series after Jaret Stewart and the Dirtbags pulled away in the bottom half of the third inning after Issac Hansen scored Grant Henry to make it a 5-2 game with Post 20 scoring the game’s next seven runs to outdo the young North Willamette Valley-squad 12-2 in five innings.
The bats of the Dirtbags continued to challenge Brady Hanson and NWV in the second game with Braden Allison continuing to set the tone for Post 20 on the bump with two innings of two-strikeout ball with Kaleb Kantola, Eric Kessler and Kaleb Reid too getting reps on the bump with Noah Amador, Logan Graber and Ricky Taylor getting some action as well entering the State Tourney.
“It’s good because some people who get to the State tournament may not play as much getting the opportunity to play in the last game and getting them the reps before we get there,” said Stewart, who went 1-for-1 with a RBI in his first-base appearance for the Dirtbags in the second game of the doubleheader after his pitching performance.
Grant Henry hit a triple that scored Nic Iliyn and Hunter Wierstra that got the game to under the 10-run difference entering the fourth inning with Calvin Sahlin (one-and-two-third innings, two strikeouts), gave North Willamette Valley another chance to do further damage entering the bottom of the fourth. But Post 20 denied the opportunity for the youthful NWV to mount a late-game rally as they did in their previous two meetings prior to Tuesday’s Super Regional to advance to State with a 17-3 win.
As the two teams shook hands after the second game, there was a brief moment late in the first game where North Willamette Valley’s Evan Holman stood in front of the Dirtbags Anthony Zellner who was catching behind him.
Holman, who’s been juggling Senior American JBO and playing Triple-A baseball, is entering his freshman year at North Marion in the Fall while Zellner is entering his second year at Western Oregon University. For Holman, seeing action against a future college guy in Stewart and playing against guys like him and Zellner this summer will help as he enters High School while Zellner is entering his fourth postseason with Post 20.
“This is going to help me a lot, it’s an awesome opportunity and I’m looking forward to next year,” said Holman. “There very valuable, it means a lot to me and I’m looking forward to getting more.”
“It’s awesome to get to go there one more time and we’ve came so close, closer every year actually since I’ve been apart of this program and hopefully we can come out and play good baseball. Play our best baseball all summer and take the State Title for the first time of the program,” said Zellner “Playoff baseball is a totally different enemy when it comes to the sport. I guess that’s every sport, playoff games are just crazy and the atmosphere is ridiculous.
“We’re going down to Roseburg, a baseball town that loves baseball,” Zellner continues. “They love the Doc Stewarts and everything, and it’s good to have leaders and older guys to keep all of our young guys and everyone calm and just play baseball.”
Post 20 opens Triple-A State Play versus the Hillsboro Barbers Saturday at 1pm at the Legion Field In Roseburg.
Grant Henry had a Huskie team-high three hits and three RBIs in the doubleheader with Post 20’s Blake Arritola having a team-high six hits in the series.
Photos By Jeremy McDonald