By Jeremy McDonald
ADAIR VILLAGE, Ore.– Blanchet Catholic came in with some house money after stunning the top-seeded Cascade Christian Challengers on Friday. But this one still hurts.
History. They made it. This was the first time a Blanchet Catholic team has ever reached the Semi-Final round, having reached the 2A/1A State Quarters in 2008 and in 2014 in 3A before once more this postseason. Their 12-2, five-inning win over Cascade Christian put them in the unknown territory in knowing that they were the first team to reach the State Semi-Finals on Tuesday against Santiam Christian.
“It was amazing. We’ve had so much fun and we weren’t supposed to make it this far and we did it and we had fun doing it,” freshman Carson McNally said.
McNally and fellow freshman Drew Bartels matched the intensity set forth by the Eagles Kadon Haugen, Camden Carley and Jadon Roth. Going toe-to-toe with SC in hopes to continue their Cinderella-like run to the 3A State Championship game.
The Cavaliers Sam Schindler went yard in the top half of the first, only to see the Eagles score off an error in the next half inning to knot up the score. Blanchet and Santiam Christian traded zero’s in the second and third before Blanchet regained the lead in the fourth, thanks to a McNally double. McNally went 4-for-5 with 2RBI’s in the game, but his hit was quickly met by a two-run inning by the Eagles. SC had taken a 3-2 lead into the fifth and into the top half of the sixth.
Defense was crucial. Stringing hits together were hard to come by in this intense, yet fun, game. McNally went five innings before letting Bartels come in for the remainder of the game. Haugen went six before Carley came in for a short-stint in the seventh before Roth finished the game.
“It was definitely a mental test. You kind of feel yourself getting fatigued and tired, you just have to fight through it and force yourself to focus on what’s next,” Spencer Kowalski said. “It was a blast. It was stressful, but there’s no way to have it with the game thinking about it. It was a fun game. It’s probably one I won’t forget.”
Blanchet managed to regain the lead going into the bottom half of the seventh inning. Tying up the game off a McNally double in the sixth before loading up the bases in the seventh and got the go-ahead run in thanks to a hit-by-pitch.
Some would say that it was the Santiam Christian Curse. The Eagles have been knocking on the State Finals door since their back-to-back Finals appearances in 2015 and 2016 with their season-ending in the quarterfinals in 2017, and the Semi’s in 2018 and 2019. Down their final three outs, Santiam Christian wasn’t going to back down as they answered the Cavaliers ‘All In’ call with a lead-off solo shot by Ely Kennel that would inevitably force extra innings.
But no winner was decided in the eighth as the two battling teams were now fighting the clock as the sun began to sink behind the hills that surround Santiam Christian’s campus going into the ninth. Blanchet couldn’t capitalize, but the Eagles did.
Thanks to a sucidie squeeze with one out, Santiam Christian ended their ‘Curse’ and moved onto the 3A State Title game Friday afternoon against South Umpqua at Volcanoes Stadium.
“Maybe focusing down more. We’ve made a couple of mistakes in the bases. It’s whatever, we learn from it. Just base-running and taking it pitch-by-pitch, those are all important things. Our pitching is young and it’s only going to get better. I’m looking forward towards next year,” said Kowalski.
Here’s the thing though. Through the heartache and pain they are feeling Tuesday night, Blanchet loses just three seniors from their underclassmen-heavy squad. Crucial seniors in Schindler, Luke Holland and Hunter Archer yes, but they return the bulk of their young team that was on the brink of the State Championship Game.
“It was exciting and I can’t wait to do it again. Get further next year,” McNally said. “I don’t know how to describe it (today). It was so much fun, but we came out on the wrong side. But it was a blast,”
Photos By Jeremy McDonald