Homer barrage powers Cats championship comeback
Westview hits five bombs in the final four innings to beat Rams
KEIZER - It was electric.
It was kinetic.
It was charged, dynamic and juiced.
The 'it,' in this case, was the incredible power display that Westview's baseball team used to win Saturday's Class 6A state championship game, a performance that included five home runs in the day's final four innings and that powered the Wildcats' 9-6 win over Central Catholic at Keizer Stadium.
And Westview needed every one of those bombs to win on Saturday. The Wildcats' five long shots helped the team rally from a 5-0 deficit, and fueled a 9-1 scoring edge - not to mention Westview's first-ever state baseball championship - in the last four innings of Saturday's title contest.
'We have the best lineup in the state up and down, and we proved that today with five home runs,' said Westview senior outfielder/pitcher Phil Belding. 'It's perfect. It's amazing.'
In retrospect, however, the only surprise about the Wildcats' home run barrage was that anyone was actually surprised by them.
The Wildcats survived all year with the combination of its 'Big Three' pitching staff of senior Sam Johnson, junior Carson Kelly and Belding, and with its lineup-wide ability to hit the long ball. Though Johnson struggled on the mound Saturday - he left trailing 5-0 after allowing three earned runs on five hits and one walk while striking out five - he still made an indelible impact on the championship contest.
He just did it with his bat this time.
Johnson, leading off the top of the fourth after ending his day on the mound, got his team off the proverbial schneid, smashing an 0-1 pitch from Central Catholic starter Jimmy Brakebush over the 405-foot center field fence to cut the gap to 5-1.
'We never thought we were back in a corner,' Johnson said. 'We were always pushing back, trying to fight our way back in the game and we did.'
Things heated up even more in the top of the fifth, with that at-bat shifted into high gear when Westview senior right fielder Tate Glasgow opened the frame with an opposite-field solo bomb to right-center field.
'That's deeper than our place,' said Glasgow, who went 3-for-3 Saturday and closed out his injury-plagued senior campaign on a high note. 'I did not know I had that much pop. It feels pretty good.'
Three batters later, it was Westview junior shortstop Carson Kelly's turn. Kelly, the Wildcats' home run leader in 2011, made sure he wasn't left out of the festivities, launching a two-run shot over the left field fence that also brought home Bradley and cut his team's deficit to just 5-4.
'We didn't get any breaks early, but once we got a game-changer, when Sam went deep and Tate went deep, then everything started rolling and we had confidence going into the last couple of innings,' Kelly said.
The Rams pushed across their final run in the bottom of the fifth and still led 6-4 with just six outs left in Westview's season, but that was more than enough for the Wildcats. In the sixth, now facing Central reliever Codi Scanlon, it was senior Ryan Susnow who made his mark. Susnow, with teammate Kyle Henderson on base, hammered a long shot to left-center field that came down on top of one of the outfield fence's support poles, bounced up into the air and fell over for a two-run shot that tied the contest at 6-6.
'I didn't think it was out,' Susnow said. 'I was just sprinting around trying to get to second base. It was amazing.'
But the last blast of the day belonged to Johnson. After Belding doubled and Kelly was intentionally walked to open the seventh, Johnson stepped to the plate for the last at-bat of his high school career. And Johnson made the most of the opportunity, crushing a 2-1 Scanlon pitch down the left field line and over the fence to bring home what turned out to be the eventual winning runs in the state championship.
'We knew we were going to win it,' Johnson said. 'Just hitting the bombs when we needed them with guys on base - that's what won it.'
'We wouldn't have been anywhere near this game without Sam,' added Westview coach Steve Antich. 'What a good all-around player. To his credit, that's the kind of hitter he is, and that's what we needed behind Carson, and to come through there a couple of times was huge.'