Oregon's High School Sports Source
- Written by DRH
- Published on May 21, 2009
- Hits: 797
Thurston (19-7, 13-2)
What to Like: A lot. The #1 ranked Colts return the bulk of last year’s team that lost 4-3 to Ashland in the state championship. Their motto this season: “Unfinished Business.” They have their eye on the prize, and they have the talent to get it done. The offense is explosive 1-9, with speed to burn at the top of the order and plenty of pop spread throughout. The pitching staff, last year so dependent on Darrell Hunter, has three starters with sub 2.00 ERAs.
Cause to Worry? Thurston is ranked #1 in 5A for a reason, and there aren’t a lot of holes. But in the “wait and see” category, we might need to see how their pitchers hold up in playoff baseball. Last year, Hunter started all four postseason games. Against West Albany, in the semifinals, Hunter left with a big lead and then had to return to the mound to preserve an 11-9 win. Chris Reed, Skip Spencer, and Brooks Chapman had fantastic regular seasons, but the playoffs are a separate beast entirely.
The Opponent: We’re not sure yet. It’ll either be Pendleton, the #3 seed from the IMC, or Sherwood, the NWOC #4. They meet Friday evening in Pendleton in the first round for the right to advance. Thurston will host one of them the following Tuesday. Sherwood is a young team who finished the season strong (wins over NWOC #1 Glencoe and NWOC #3 Hillsboro) to clinch a playoff berth. Pendleton finished in a three-way tie for second place in the IMC, but claim the #3 seed due to a tiebreaker. At one point Pendleton won nine straight in the middle of the season.
North Eugene (16-11, 9-6)
What to Like: The starting pitching. Ace Tim Keller is closing in on his third straight All State nod, and freshman Andrew Moore is poised to take his place starting next year. Together, they’re about as good of a 1-2 punch around. Last year, Keller pitched one of the greatest games of his career in a 1-0, 10-inning win on the road against Corvallis, the MWC champion. With Keller on the mound, North can beat anybody in the state. They lost in the quarterfinals last season against Ashland when Keller had to rest his arm. The hope is that Moore will be able to get it done when Keller sits. Moore’s 2.06 ERA in 34 MWL IP suggests he can.
Cause to Worry? The offense has not been stellar. NE should be able to match anybody in pitching, but you have to score runs to win. The Highlanders have scored 2 runs or less in 10 of their 27 games in ’09. They’ve scored 3 runs or less in 14 of 27 games. This is not an offensive juggernaut, and they’re going to be going up against some top-notch pitching in the playoffs.
The Opponent: Cleveland. NE will trip to the PIL #1, who went 17-7. It’s tough to get a good read on the Warriors. They play in the PIL, which only has four teams (Jefferson doesn’t compete in baseball). Half of the PIL – Marshall and Roosevelt – combined to win 6 games – Marshall went 5-11, Roosevelt 1-14. That said, Cleveland did play six 6A schools, as well as West Albany, so it’s not like they haven’t played anybody.
Churchill (14-11, 9-6)
What to Like: Spencer Jorgensen officially moved into “ace” status by virtue of his 10 inning, 3-2 win over Thurston in the MWL finale to clinch a playoff spot. Drew Larsen and Nathan Rhueban also had ERAs 3.00 or lower. Brad Birch and Max Berrien are feared hitters in any line-up. This isn’t a dominant team, like the ’07 state runners-up, but it’s a good one with a chance to win every time they take the field. They’ve got wins over Top 10 teams like Thurston, North Eugene, and 6A Roseburg.
Cause to Worry? Before winning their final five games of the MWL season, Churchill was 6-13 overall (two blowout losses to Grants Pass were reversed due to forfeits on GP’s side) and two games behind Springfield for the third playoff seed. This is a talented team, but they aren’t always consistent. Was their 5-0 finish in the third round of MWL play just a hot streak, or have the Lancers put it all together? We won’t know until they take the field. Churchill has 9 losses of 5 runs or more. They can be very, very good, but they’ve also failed to be competitive a time or two.
The Opponent: Hillsboro. The Spartans went 15-11, and claimed the #3 seed out of the NWOC. They had a five game winning streak of their own towards the end of the season, but ended league play with a thud: back-to-back 10-1 and 15-1 losses to Sherwood, the NWOC #4. They took part in the Coach BOB NIT, the same tournament Thurston played in over Spring Break down in Arizona.
5A First Round
South Albany Rebels (12-14) @ Marshall Minutemen (6-14). Winner gets… a road trip to Glencoe.
Sherwood Bowmen (15-12) @ Pendleton Buckaroos (17-8). Winner gets… a road trip to Thurston.
Madras White Buffaloes (20-6) @ Crescent Valley Red Raiders (14-2). Winner gets… a road trip to Ashland
Churchill Lancers (14-11) @ Hillsboro Spartans (15-11). Winner gets… a road trip to Bend.