Sherwood scores a 6-3 victory over rival Wilsonville to win its first state baseball championship since 1969
KEIZER - It was the state championship game.
Their heated rivals - rivals that beat them in both of the teams' previous meetings on the season - sat in the opposing dugout.
The stage was set.
Now, it was up to the Bowmen to deliver.
In a storybook-like scenario, the Sherwood High School baseball team captured its long-awaited state title as, in determined fashion, the Bowmen willed their way to a 6-3 win over Wilsonville in the Class 5A state championship game played Saturday at Volcanoes Stadium.
'It's almost unbelievable,' Sherwood senior designated hitter Justin Davis said during the Bowmen's victory celebration. 'We've worked for so long for this. It's like a dream come true. And to beat Wilsonville makes it that much sweeter.'
'This means everything to us,' Sherwood senior shortstop Tyler Rome said. 'We worked all of our lives for this. It's always been a dream.'
'Winning the championship against our rival - that's the ultimate goal,' said Sherwood senior Jordan Ramp, who was the winning pitcher in Saturday's title contest. 'That makes it really special.'
Wilsonville, which edged Sherwood for the Northwest Oregon Conference championship, finished its season with a final overall record of 23-7.
Sherwood, the NWOC runner-up, finished its season with a final mark of 24-6.
'This is just huge,' Sherwood junior centerfielder Connor Munro said. 'We worked so hard for this. Since Day 1 this has been our goal. I'm on Cloud 9 right now.'
The Bowmen, in Saturday's championship game, faced a Wilsonville team that they had already lost to twice during the regular season. The Wildcats posted a 2-0 home win over the Bowmen 2-0 on April 8 and they also scored a 5-1 win at Sherwood on April 29.
Wilsonville senior Spencer Cumiford, who pitched the Wildcats to the two previous wins over Sherwood, started on the mound for Wilsonville in Saturday's title contest.
But that didn't seem to faze the Bowmen at all. In fact, that seemed to motivate them.
'They're our biggest rival, and they beat us twice before,' said Sherwood senior pitcher Tanner Kichler, who pitched the final two innings for the Bowmen in the title tilt. 'We knew we had to be prepared.'
'We prepared really well,' Sherwood senior Geoff Walck said. 'It's hard to beat a team three times.'
'We were definitely fired-up,' Ramp said. 'We faced him (Cumiford) twice, and we wanted another shot at him.'
Well, the Bowmen got that shot, and they made the most of it.
After Ramp worked his way out of a bases-loaded jam in the bottom of the first inning, Sherwood broke a scoreless tie in a big way, scoring four runs in the top of the second inning.
Ramp got things started, drawing a walk with one out in the frame. Walck then reached base on a Wilsonville fielding error, with Ramp moving up to third base on the play.
Munro then singled to left field, driving in Ramp with the first run of the game. But the Bowmen didn't stop there.
Davis lined a single to right field, driving in Walck to make the score 2-0. Sophomore Joseph Balfour then singled to center, plating Munro to up the margin to 3-0. Then, after Rome walked, Davis scored from third base on a wild pitch to make the score 4-0 and cap off the big early inning.
'We were focused from the get-go,' Davis said.
'Hitting is contagious for us,' Munro said.
Wilsonville answered back with a run in its half of the second when senior Michael Gonzalez doubled in senior Briar Hetland, making the score 4-1.
Both teams kept threatening after that. In the top of the third inning, Sherwood senior Brandon Scott drew a walk and Munro and Davis were both hit by pitches - with Davis getting hit in the left side of his face 'there was no way I was coming out of the game,' he said - loading the bases with two outs. But a pop out to Wildcat shortstop Tanner Antonson ended the inning.
Wilsonville, in turn, loaded the bases with two outs in its half of the third. But Balfour, playing in right field, made a running catch toward the fence for the final out of the frame.
Sherwood stranded two runners on base in the top of the fourth inning. The Wildcats left one runner on base in both the fourth and fifth frames, leaving the score at 4-1.
But the Bowmen were able to tack on a run to their lead in the top of the sixth.
Balfour walked on a 3-2 pitch to start the inning. Rome followed with a hit-and-run single to left field, with Balfour moving all the way to third base on the hit. Junior Travis Dyer then drew a walk to load the bases with no outs.
Then, after senior Jackson Luby took over on the mound for Wilsonville, Sherwood senior Jake Lawrence belted a sacrifice fly to deep right field, driving in Balfour to give the Bowmen a 5-1 lead.
Wilsonville countered with a run in its half of the fifth. Senior Seth Gearhart led off the frame with a walk. Pinch runner Jayden Cooper stole second base and he ended up scoring on a double by Gonzalez to trim the margin to 5-2 going into the seventh inning.
The Bowmen struck from another run in the top of the seventh inning. Munro was hit by a pitch to start the frame. He moved to second on a groundout by Davis and then he advanced to third on an infield single by Balfour.
Munro then scored on a fielder's choice grounder off the bat of Rome, giving the Bowmen a 6-2 advantage going into the bottom of the seventh.
Kichler, who pitched the Bowmen to a 1-0 semifinal win over West Albany, struck out both Wilsonville senior Chase Lio and Cumiford to start the seventh.
The Wildcats wouldn't go down without a fight. Antonson hit a two-out double to right field. Junior Kyle Austin followed with a double down the left-field line, driving in Antonson to make the score 6-3.
But Wilsonville wouldn't get any closer.
Kichler struck Gearhart out swinging for the final out of the contest - giving the Bowmen their third state championship and their first since 1969.
'I was hoping for strike three,' Walck said of the final out of the contest. 'It was incredible. It was the best feeling in the world.'
'It was everything I could imagine,' Rome said. 'It was incredible.'
'I think I jumped six feet in the air,' said Ramp, who played at third base over the final two innings of the game. 'It was a feeling of relief and excitement. We finally did it. I got crushed underneath the pile, but that was OK.'
'I'm as happy as can be,' Sherwood coach Jon Strohmaier said. 'And I couldn't be prouder of these kids. This was a plan that went into motion three years ago when I put a bunch of young kids on the field in the summer. This is the defining moment of all that. It hasn't set in yet, but it will.'
'Oh, this is everything to us - everything in the world,' Kichler said. 'All through youth baseball and three years of varsity, this has been a giant project with the best possible outcome.'
Ramp, in picking up the pitching victory, gave up one run on six hits while striking out two and walking four. He stranded eight Wilsonville runners on base in his five innings of work.
'It was a little shaky at the beginning, but I was able to leave some runners on base,' Ramp said. 'I have a lot of confidence in my teammates. It's nice to know they're playing behind me.'
'Jordan was lights out,' Rome said. 'He got out of the jams.'
Sherwood had five hits as a team in the championship contest. Balfour went 2-for-3 at the plate with a run scored and an RBI. Davis went 1-for-3 with a run and an RBI. Rome went 1-for-3 with an RBI and Munro went 1-for-2 with two runs and an RBI.
The Bowmen also took advantage of 11 walks issued by Wilsonville pitchers as well as having four batters hit by a pitch. Dyer walked three times while Rome, Balfour and Ramp each walked twice. Munro was hit by a pitch in a pair of plate appearances.
Sherwood also played strong defense in the title game, getting key plays from, among others, senior Nick Lopez at third base.
Gonzalez, Austin and Hetland each had pair of hits for Wilsonville.
Other members of the Sherwood state championship team include senior Cody Carlson, junior Jonathan Dailey, senior Connor Hendryx, senior Michael Balfour, junior Taylor Bonawitz, sophomore Jacob Urbach, junior Tyler Ratcliffe and junior Nate Montgomery.
Jerry Ackerman, Will Brindza, Allen Sugiyama, Justin Gabler and Don Wilson are assistant coaches for the Bowmen.