Eight Metro baseball stars play prominent roles in North's sweep
CORVALLIS - There wasn't much left for the Metro League's best baseball players to prove.
After all, Metro teams had gone a combined 10-4 (a 71-percent winning percentage) in the 32-team Class 6A state playoff bracket for 2011 - by far the state's best mark - and had seen Westview roll to its first-ever state championship.
Regardless of what had come before, the Metro's best stepped up and showed their skills one more time in the Oregon All-Star Series, a three-game set between North and South teams held at Oregon State's Goss Stadium on Saturday and Sunday.
The North swept to three straight wins and victory in the Series, taking game one 4-0 behind Southridge star pitcher Jace Fry on Saturday, coming from behind twice to win Sunday's first game 10-7 thanks to the hot bat of
Southridge catcher Jake Azevedo, then getting three hits from Westview's Sam Johnson and tough pitching from Sunset's Jon Bjorklund and Beaverton's Jordan Spencer to take game three 6-4.
'Both the North and South teams, we were out here to have fun, but we also wanted to win,' said Sunset third baseman/shortstop Mike Umscheid, who will play next year at Western Nevada. 'After losing (in the high school state playoffs), it was good to come out here and play another game with all your friends and get a sweep.'
'It was interesting to see them split up the state and to see how much talent there was for baseball,' said Westview pitcher/first baseman Sam Johnson, who will play at Oregon next season. 'To see that was great, and sweeping the South is always good.'
In addition to the North's three straight wins, Fry and Azevedo also walked off with the Series' top honors, with Fry named Series MVP and the North's Most Outstanding Pitcher, while Azevedo was named the North's Outstanding Player. For more on those two players' efforts, please see the accompanying story.
Along with the players mentioned above, Westview outfielder/pitcher Phil Belding, Beaverton first baseman/pitcher Jordan Spencer, and Southridge first baseman Ryan Howard were all selected to play in the Series, though Howard's opportunities were cut short by a Saturday injury. Following are snapshots of each Metro player's success at the Series (Fry and Azevedo's efforts are detailed in the accompanying story).
n Sam Johnson: Johnson, like Belding added another championship to the end of his senior season and played a big role in the North's success. After pinch-hitting late in game one, Johnson threw the first three innings of game two, allowing two runs on three hits and a walk while striking out four.
'The first two innings I felt really good,' Johnson said. 'And then that third inning, I felt good but they got a walk and those two hits. That's how it seemed for me all season when teams scored runs.'
While Johnson went just 0-for-2 at the plate in the Series' first two games, his bat caught fire in game three, going 3-for-5 with a double and scoring twice.
'It was really cool to be with all the Metro kids,' Johnson said. 'We knew the Metro was really talented, so to get all the best kids from it on one team was cool to see.'
n Jordan Spencer: Spencer, who will play next year at Oregon, had just one hit in the Series, but thanks to his selective batting eye, he walked three times and scored three runs in his team's game-two victory.
In total, Spencer went 1-for-5 at the plate and led his team with four runs scored. Defensively, he was errorless at first base, and pitched three scoreless innings to close out game three, allowing just one hit and one walk while striking out four.
'Just playing with all the players - it's a great experience,' Spencer said. 'You can't want to finish a high school career any other way.'
n Mike Umscheid: Umscheid was solid in the field at both shortstop and third base for the North, handling three chances without a miscue in game three and playing error-free throughout the Series. Like Belding, Umscheid didn't swing the bat as well as he would have liked, but went 1-for-7 at the plate, his lone hit a single in the North's three-run fourth inning in game two.
'It was just good to get out here and play,' Umscheid said. 'To come out one last time and play with each other and put it together and win some games was a lot of fun.'
n Phil Belding: Belding, who will room with Umscheid and play at Western Nevada next season, went hitless in five plate appearances during the Series, but still made his presence felt. He walked and stole a base in game one, then stepped up to pitch the final two innings to pick up the save in game two. In that game-two appearance, Belding faced 10 batters and allowed one run while scattering three hits and a walk, and striking out three.
'I felt pretty good pitching-wise,' said Belding, who two weeks earlier got the win in the Class 6A state championship game. 'I didn't play up to what I wanted, but I had fun with all the guys and being around everybody.'
n Jon Bjorklund: Bjorklund, a pitcher/first baseman/outfielder who will play at Oregon next year, went 0-for-6 at the plate in the Series, but still made a positive impact for the North with his arm.
Bjorklund came on in relief of Riley Wilkerson in game three in the fourth inning and pitched the next three frames, allowing two runs on four hits and one walk while striking out three.
'Pitching I came out and did pretty good,' Bjorklund said. My 'hitting wasn't really there this weekend, but I had fun pitching. You just go up there knowing that, with this lineup, there's someone that's going to get it done.'
n Ryan Howard: The Southridge star first baseman - who will play at Seattle University next year - saw his Series hopes cut short when he was struck just below the right eye by a line drive off Spencer's bat in practice. The hard shot skipped off the edge of Howard's glove before striking him in the face and effectively ending his Series - he played a single inning in game one, getting hit by a pitch in his only at-bat.