Trojans beat visiting Bend 3-2 in 10-inning semifinal, will meet Summit on Saturday for state championship
There is magic in baseball.
As the game is passed down from fathers to sons, it creates bonds that last for a lifetime. And sometimes, with the diamond outlined in the twilight of the setting sun, the bonds between generations can last longer than a lifetime.
Sometimes, a moment like the protagonist in the movie 'Field of Dreams' having a catch with his long dead father, is not just the stuff of movies.
That was how it was Tuesday afternoon for Wilson High pitcher/outfielder Gerhett Moser.
The Oregon School Activities Association Class 5A semifinal playoff game between Wilson and Bend entered the 10th inning with the score tied 2-2.
Trojan outfielder Josh Hagge led off the bottom of the inning with a single between the Bend third baseman and shortstop. Wilson shortstop Austin Andrews then blooped a single to right field.
While Moser was in the on-deck circle, watching Andrews' at-bat, Bill Nance, a close friend of Moser's late grandfather, Bill Schantz, spoke to Moser.
'Do this one for Grandpa Bill,' Nance said to Moser.
From the moment he stepped into the batter's box, Moser said later, he could feel his grandfather with him.
On a 1-2 count, Moser got a pitch down the middle and sent a shot into deep center field. The Lava Bears had no chance for the ball. Hagge came around to score, sending Wilson into the state championship game against Summit High on Saturday at Volcanoes Stadium in Keizer.
'I just had this feeling where I was relaxed and focused and I just kind of knew he was there,' Moser said, smiling as he spoke of his grandfather. 'I don't know how I could have done it any other way.'
In the 9 1/2 innings leading up to Moser's heroics, Wilson and Bend played the game the way it was meant to be played. Each pitch carried with it all the drama, hopes and dreams of an entire season for both ball clubs.
'It was a great high school game,' said Wilson coach Mike Clopton, who also led the Trojans to the state championship game in 1989 and won a state championship with Wilson in 2006. 'You don't see games like that very often.'
Moser and Bend pitcher Anthony Martorano dueled each other, pitch for pitch, out for out, inning for inning.
In seven innings, Moser gave up three hits and five walks, and struck out five.
'I was getting ahead on first pitch strikes,' he said. 'It was really getting ahead and having everyone behind me making plays.'
Wilson struck first in the fifth inning. Senior Johnny Hergert led off with a four-pitch walk. Catcher Jonah Harris followed the walk with a single, giving the Trojans runners on first and second. No. 9 hitter Tyler Seeley then drove a single to right, which the Lava Bears' right fielder misplayed, allowing Hergert to come around and score.
'He threw me my pitch,' Seeley said. 'He hung a curveball on me, and I took it to right field and brought the run in.'
The Trojans could have gotten more in the inning, but with Bend playing the infield in, Chris Beard hit a hard grounder to shortstop. Harris tried to score but was thrown out by a mile at the plate.
'He wasn't supposed to go on contact,' Clopton said. 'If it was a slow roller, we were going, but a ball hit hard, we still wanted to keep (runners on) second and third for our next hitter coming up. It negated a possible chance.'
Bend came back with the tying run in the top of the sixth.
Lava Bears infielder Sami Godlove walked and stole second base. Infielder Dalton Hurd then singled to put runners at the corners with one out. After Jonah Koski popped up, Moser was able to get Ben Kramer to hit a ground ball to second base. The Wilson second baseman bobbled the ball, though, and allowed Godlove to score.
'It was a hard play that could've been made but wasn't,' Moser said.
With the score knotted 1-1, the game went into extra innings.
Having thrown 115 pitches, the left-handed Moser came out after the seventh inning in favor of right-hander Philip Blatt.
Blatt was shaky to begin with, and Hurd led off the top of the eighth with a single. Hurd then stole second base. With one out, Kramer singled in the go-ahead run on a grounder up the middle.
'It was a little nerve-racking coming in with the game tied,' Blatt said. 'I gave up a couple of hits early, and they ended up scoring a run.'
With their season on life support, the Trojans put together a rally in the eighth.
Hagge doubled down the left-field line.
Bend then took out Martorano after 7 1/3 innings - he had given up five hits and two walks, with two strikeouts.
The Lava Bears brought in Hurd to try to shut the door. Hurd got Andrews to roll a grounder to third base, but the Bend third baseman
booted the ball, allowing Hagge to get to third base and Andrews to move to second. Bend then intentionally walked Moser, bringing Blatt to the plate.
Blatt worked the count to 3-1 before drawing a bases-loaded walk to bring in the tying run.
'I was just trying to get on base anyway I could to help my team,' Blatt said. 'I knew either a ball in play or a walk would score that run.'
The Lava Bears nearly got a runner across the plate in the ninth inning. Bend had runners at second and third with one out. Bend coach Bret Bailey called for a suicide squeeze. Outfielder Justin Erlandson popped up. Blatt was able to make a diving catch, rise to his feet and throw out Hurd at third base.
'I was able to get off the mound fast enough to dive and catch it and was able to double him off at third,' Blatt said.
The double-play on the suicide squeeze was the last break Wilson would need before Moser, with magic swirling in the chilly twilight, delivered the game-winning hit.
'It's just a matter of inches,' Clopton said. 'The squeeze bunt, we catch, and our base hit goes between them.'
The Trojans may have their work cut out for them against Summit, which obliterated defending 5A champion Sherwood 11-1 on Tuesday.
There was not even the slightest trace of a joke in Clopton's voice when he said that Wilson would have to "score more runs than the other team' in Saturday's title game.
'That's the secret to everything,' Clopton said. 'Although it's not (a secret), it is just another game.'