The defending state champs roll to a 16-0 play-in win over Benson
by: DAN BROOD, HOT CORNER — Sherwood junior third baseman Joseph Balfour gets ready to make a throw to first after making a back-handed snag in the win over Benson.

SHERWOOD - The Bowmen just may be at it again.

The Sherwood High School baseball team, which won the Class 5A state championship a year ago, opened 2012 postseason play in impressive fashion.

The Bowmen, knowing that any loss now ends their season, started the postseason by rolling to a 16-0 win over Benson in a Class 5A play-in game contested last Thursday at Sherwood High School.

'I thought it went well. It was a lot of fun,' said Sherwood senior Nate Montgomery, who started on the mound and pitched five shutout innings. 'It's the playoffs, and there's no tomorrow, so we can't lose focus. We have to keep our focus in practice and keep working hard. We're not taking any team lightly.'

'It felt good today,' said Sherwood junior Joseph Balfour. 'We're taking every game like it could be our last game. We're going to play as hard as we can.'

Benson, which tied for the No. 3 spot in the Portland Interscholastic League, finished its season with a final overall record of 8-14.

Sherwood, the Northwest Oregon Conference champion, improved to 22-4-1 on the season with the victory. The Bowmen also advanced to the Class 5A state playoffs and was scheduled to host West Albany in a state playoff first-round game on Wednesday. Results of that game weren't available when The Times went to press.

The Bowmen, in last week's game, wasted little time in taking charge, as they scored three runs in the bottom of the first inning. Balfour ignited the frame with a leadoff double to right field. Jake Urbach was then hit by a pitch and senior Jon Dailey reached base on a Benson error to load the bases.

Two outs later, with the bases still loaded, Sherwood freshman Zak Taylor singled to center field, driving in Balfour and Urbach for the first two runs of the game. Dailey scored later in the inning when Taylor was caught in a rundown between first and second base, giving Sherwood a 3-0 advantage.

Sherwood added on two more runs in the second inning. Balfour doubled in junior Colton Waker, who walked earlier in the frame, and Dailey singled in Balfour to make the score 5-0.

The Bowmen then really broke the game open in the third inning, scoring nine runs in the frame to up the margin to 14-0.

Taylor had a two-run single in the inning and senior Taylor Bonawitz doubled in senior Connor Munro. Urbach, Dailey and Munro each had an RBI single in the inning. Waker also drove in a run when he was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded. Bonawitz, junior Logan Ballarche and senior Travis Dyer were also hit by pitches in the inning.

Sherwood added two more runs in the bottom of the fifth inning, as both Taylor and sophomore Riley Moore scored when Benson committed an error on a fly ball off the bat of Taylor, wrapping up the 16-0 victory.

'We took care of business,' Sherwood coach Jon Strohmaier said. 'We've been working hard on our approach at the plate. And, for the most post, we did a good job with that tonight. I'm very pleased with where we are right now.'

Montgomery, who looks fully recovered from a torn left (non-throwing) labrum that he suffered earlier in the season, looked to be in total control on the mound. In his five shutout innings of work, he gave up three hits while striking out four and walking one.

'I felt pretty good out there,' he said. 'I trust our defense a ton.'

'Nate threw well and our defense is solid,' Strohmaier said.

Balfour pitched the final two innings, giving up two hits and striking out three.

'It was nice to finish the shutout for Nate,' he said.

Balfour also had a big day at the plate, going 2 for 2 with two doubles, a sacrifice fly, a walk, two runs scored and two RBI.

Taylor went 3 for 4 with a run scored and two RBI. Dailey and Munro added two hits apiece. All 21 players on Sherwood's playoff roster got at least one at-bat in the contest.

'That made it a lot of fun,' Balfour said. 'We got a lot of people in the game and we got a lot of hits.'

Sherwood, if it won its playoff game with West Albany on Wednesday, will be back in action on Friday when it will host either Hood River Valley or Ashland in a state playoff quarterfinal contest. The semifinal round of the state playoffs is set for Tuesday.

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