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Junior named first team all-state for second year after monster season at the plate

GRAPHIC FILE PHOTO - St. Paul junior Justin Herberger was named first-team all-state for the second consecutive season. Herberger hit an astounding .667 for the season with 28 RBIs and 17 stolen bases.

To go 7-0 with 69 strikeouts and a 0.98 ERA in a season and yet have those statistics overshadowed by one's numbers at the plate is a pretty rare and potent combination.

Just about everybody in 1A/2A baseball thought so, which is why St. Paul's Justin Herberger swept just about every award he was eligible for this season.

The junior hit .667 for the season with 28 RBIs, 32 runs scored and 17 stolen bases in 18 games to earn OSAA Special District 2 Player of the Year honors and was later named first-team all-state for the second consecutive season.

"He's as good a player as I've had the opportunity to be around," SPHS coach Julio Vela said. "He gets on base, he runs the bases well, he hits the ball hard and he plays great outfield."

Herberger not only hit for power, but was disciplined at the plate. In addition to striking out just three times in 63 at-bats, Herberger was held hitless in a game just once this season. He also had 14 multiple-hit games, finished with 42 hits overall, including 10 doubles, three triples and a pair of home runs.

"I just focus on playing my hardest every single game and see what happens from there," Herberger said. "You try to get your team as far as you can and we tried to get past that first round of playoffs and make history for St. Paul, but we couldn't quite do it and fell short by one run. It was kind of heartbreaking, but it was a good year."

Despite the 11-10 loss at Monroe in the opening round of the 1A/2A playoffs, the Bucks otherwise had a stellar season. That included a 15-4 overall record, No. 9 ranking and second-place finish in a very competitive league.

Vela's squad was duly recognized with strong representation on the all-league and all-state teams. In addition to Herberger, who was also named conference pitcher of the year, catcher Bradey Weise and outfielders Campbell Smith and Rawley Koch were also named to the all-league first team.

Smith was then named third-team all-state and Weise honorable mention.

"We have a very good league with a lot of very good ball players, so I was very pleased how many we got in," Vela said. "I think it was great we got the representation we did."

Smith finished the season with a .436 average to go along with 22 RBIs and 11 walks.

"He was also a very vocal leader, the one who wants to gather us together and say 'it's time to do this,'" Vela said. "Sometimes the vocal leader doesn't always put it out on the field, but he gave it all he had this year and had a very productive year."

Weise sat out his entire junior season after injury his knee in football, but was an excellent leadoff hitter and catcher for the Bucks, hitting .516 with 18 RBI and a team-high 21 stolen bases.

"I was a little bit worried that maybe he had lost a step in speed or he wasn't going to be able to bounce out of the box or would wear out part-way through the year with the crouching," Vela said. "He had no ill effects that I could tell. He never wanted to come out of games."

A junior, Koch hit .373 with 13 RBIs, 13 runs scores and nine walks.

With three first-team outfielders, it was harder for St. Paul infielders to earn recognition, but Jaidyn Jackson, Holden Smith and Zach Brentano were all named to the second-team, with T.J. Crawford earning an honorable mention nod.

"I think our guys, as a group, are as good as anybody I've ever coached defensively," Vela said. "Offensively, they all played a great role. Holden was a good bunter and a good hit-and-run guy. Jaidyn as a great table setter in the middle of the lineup because once we got through Campbell and Rawley, we kind of started over again and Jaidyn was that guy getting on base all the time."

In addition to his repeat appearance on the all-state first team, Herberger was once again invited to play in the Oregon Futures Games, which will be held June 29 in Keizer.

"It was a fun experience, especially because I didn't play any summer baseball last year with any 6A guys or guys from other places," he said. "I just played 2A, so you don't really see guys throw in the 80s or high 80s. You just see 60 to 70 miles per hour and then when you see the guys in the 80s, it's like wow. It was a good experience."

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