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Best in State

For the first time in 50 years, Wilson's baseball team took the state championship thanks to hard work, raw talent and the closeness of the team

Most people know that chemistry is important when dating, but Wilson High School's baseball team found out it's important when it comes to winning games as well.

This season the Trojans won their first state championship in the school's 50-year history, winning 28 games and finishing with a 7-0 victory against West Salem in the Class 4A championship on June 3.

Many credit the closeness of the team with their success.

'It was the best chemistry on a team I've ever had - we all hung out together outside the baseball field,' said junior pitcher Joey Mahalic.

Many of the players have been playing together for years. The difference this year was experience, according to senior Allen Waters.

'Our approach wasn't different,' he said. 'We were all bigger, faster and stronger from running and lifting weights in the off-season.'

Outside of practice and working out, the team stayed close by holding dinners at one player's house each Sunday night. They also visited a sports psychologist who worked with them on goal setting and learning how to focus. Together they said they wanted to be undefeated in the league and win the playoffs. They realized both goals.

'We learned that when things are going bad on the field you have to have a clear mind. Don't let outside things distract you,' explained senior Peter Stull.

Coach Mike Clopton has led the Trojans for 24 years and said that this team took playing baseball seriously.

'Not once did I have to get on the kids to not goof around,' he said.

Besides being a close-knit team and spending extra time on hitting and pitching, Clopton attributed raw talent with the Trojans' success.

'We had some good, skilled players all the way around,' he said.

Wilson is the first team in the Portland Interscholastic League to win the state championship since Madison won its sixth title in 1997. Winning the PIL 'brings a great deal of pride to the team,' Clopton said.

Also a point of pride was the support of the community throughout the season.

'Walking through the (school) building or walking to our houses, people would stop us and ask how it was going and take a lot of interest,' Waters said.

Junior Sam Peterson said the fans' presence in the stands made a difference.

'The school support all season was great. We could count on having the hill full every game.'

Fans came out in full force for the championship game in Keizer, setting an attendance record, according to the district.

'Walking under the bleachers you could hear the acoustics from the fans cheering,' Peterson said. 'It was pretty surreal. It was what my baseball career led up to.'

After the game, the team celebrated with pizza and then going to a teammate's house to watch their victory on the news, Mahalic said.

Back at school the team was greeted with a newly placed banner in the outfield and baseball state champs T-shirts. Wilson held pep assemblies and the school board honored them at their regular meeting.

Having graduated three days before the state game, the seniors had a chance to end their high school experience with a bang.

'It was a good way to end it, we graduated the week before so all we had to do was focus on baseball,' said Stull.

Waters agreed that the experience was a nice way to end his high school career.

'It definitely ended it on a good note,' he said. 'It wasn't as much of a surprise as it was a realization of a goal we've had since we started playing baseball.'