Senior Chase Kaplan leads the Spartans on a stunning run to the semifinals of the Class 6A baseball playoffs

Chase Kaplan was not exactly an unknown last year.

Everybody knows who he is now, though.

Hillsboro’s lanky left-handed pitching standout made sure of that this spring, when he put up some impressive performances — a 17-strikeout game here, a couple of no-hitters there. by: HILLSBORO TRIBUNE PHOTO: AMANDA MILES - Hillsboro pitcher Chase Kaplan was an all-conference and all-state selection
after throwing two
no-hitters this year
and striking out 17
batters in one game. The senior signed a letter of intent with Western
Nevada College.

But his star perhaps shined brightest in the state playoffs, when he played a considerable hand in orchestrating the Spartans’ improbable run to the Class 6A state semifinals.

As the No. 29 seed.

In all, the senior southpaw put together one amazing body of work this spring, finishing the season with an 8-3 record, one save and three postseason victories. Kaplan was named to the all-Pacific Conference first team as a pitcher, and surely his landing somewhere on the 6A all-state team would not come as a surprise.

“I wouldn’t want anyone else on that mound besides Chase,” said longtime teammate Austin Lutheran-Burt at the end of the team’s playoff run. “We just believe in him so much, and every time he’s on the mound, we just get a spark in us and we’re just almost like a different team.”

It’s not much of a challenge to see why that was the case. In 81 innings of work, Kaplan gave up just 47 hits, a scant 26 runs — only 13 of which were earned — and 22 walks. A pitcher with plenty of velocity, he fanned batters a whopping 115 times, averaging nearly 10 strikeouts per game, and ended up with a sparkling 1.12 earned run average.

Even with solid outings from Kaplan and a lot of talent surrounding him, the Spartans put up a rather pedestrian 10-14 record heading into last month’s play-in round.

But thanks in part to the strength of Kaplan’s arm, Hilhi found playoff magic, pulling off four consecutive upsets before losing 3-1 at reigning state champion Sheldon in last week’s semifinals. Kaplan went the distance in three of those four wins, picking up impressive victories in 2-1 pitchers’ duels against South Salem (play-in) and No. 5 Clackamas (quarterfinals), and scattering a handful of hits in a 5-1 victory at No. 4 West Salem (first round).

“He’s done a heck of a job the entire year, and he just got better and better as the postseason went on,” Hilhi coach Matt Bailie said.

Kaplan’s pitching was undoubtedly a factor in his team’s success this season, but he found other ways to help the Spartans even when he was not on the mound.

On offense, he posted a .333 batting average, as well as 33 hits, 18 RBIs and 18 runs scored compared with only five strikeouts. His RBI total led the team, and he finished tied for second in hits and tied for third in runs scored. He also was a common presence at first base when he was not pitching, earning second team all-conference honors at that position.

Perhaps above all, above the accolades and statistics, what stands out most about Kaplan is his affinity for his teammates and the run they made together. He mentioned more than once the tight bonds this year’s Spartans forged over years of play together, using words such as “camaraderie” and “support.”

“I wouldn’t have tired out my arm for any other team,” an emotional and tearful Kaplan said from the dugout after the Sheldon defeat. “I’ve been playing with these guys for 10, 11 years now, and it’s not just teammates, it’s brothers.”

While his time in a Hilhi uniform is over, Kaplan’s baseball career is far from finished. In fact, he could be back in action as soon as Saturday, as he was selected as a pitcher for the South roster of the annual Oregon All-Star Series. The three-game event is slated for this weekend at Goss Stadium in Corvallis.

After that, Kaplan moves on to Western Nevada, a high-powered junior college program that has a history of moving players on to four-year schools and the professional ranks.

So as good as Kaplan is now, his best could be yet to come.

Said Bailie: “When you’re 6-5 ... left-handed, throwing upper 80s and still have a couple years to mature and put on some muscle, his ceiling is pretty high.”

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