PHILOMATH — Whether it was figuring out a pitcher they had seen little of or responding to a wake-up call provided by the opponent, Philomath’s bats found the spark in a big way.
Stayton scored first in Thursday’s Oregon West Conference softball game, getting three runs in the third inning after both teams missed on early opportunities.
Answering the call, Philomath's first 10 batters in the third reached safely, and then it brought nine more to the plate without an out in the fourth. The Warriors produced 17 runs in those two frames on their way to a 17-7 win in five innings.
Philomath (15-6, 12-1) won its eighth straight game and had what coach Erik Remington called its best offensive game of the season despite another slow start.
“This was the first time, honestly, all year our bats came to life,” he said. “It’s been kind of a one-sy, two-sy, leave some on and maybe have a little explosiveness. We finally were explosive for the whole game. I’ve been waiting for a game like this all year long.”
Stayton’s runs in the third came one at a time, and each after the Eagles (12-6, 8-5) loaded the bases against Philomath pitcher Kamden Combs.
The Warriors started their at-bat in the third with lead-off Hannah Williams as the first batter.
The senior shortstop’s bouncing single to left field was the first of nine straight Philomath hits that produced seven runs. Amie Russell had a RBI double and Ashley Matthews a three-run home run — both to left — during that stretch.
With one out, Williams walked as the 10th batter. Two batters later, two runs scored on a fielding error on Russell’s grounder.
Only a few batters had faced Stayton starting pitcher Sydney Maurer in the teams’ first two meeting of the season, which Philomath won 15-7 on March 18 at home and 10-5 on the road last Friday.
So it took the Warriors a few innings to get their timing.
“We had a little meeting at the bottom of the third inning,” Remington said. “The nine hits in a row, that gets things going. They got the message received.”
Russell, the senior third baseman who had two hits and two RBIs, said the hitting was contagious.
“I think it’s a big chemistry thing,” she said. “We feed off each other’s momentum. You see a girl get a hit … and it just goes from there.”
The Eagles got three runs back in the fourth off Combs with the help of three walks and two Warriors errors.
But the home team was right back at it in the bottom half.
Riley Weaver had a double that scored the first of eight runs. She came back up later in the inning and produced a run-scoring ground out. The frame included two Stayton errors, two hit batters and a walk.
Stayton scored one in the fifth on an Alysha Sims single. But a second runner on the play that could have extended the game was tagged out at home by Warriors catcher Reagan Larson following a relay throw from Lara Hunter at first.
The final out was recorded after a Stayton runner at second base was caught trying to steal third on ball four of a walk.
Combs, a sophomore, struck out three while allowing eight hits and six walks and hitting three batters.
“She’s one of the better pitchers in the state at the 4A level and she puts in the time and the effort every single game,” Russell said.
Weaver had three hits and two RBIs. Combs and Kiya Smith joined Russell with two hits. Matthew led the team with her three RBIs. Combs and fellow sophomore Kaili Saathoff drive in two runs each allowing with Russell and Weaver.
Maurer had two hits and two RBIs for Stayton.
Philomath lost five key players off last year’s league title team and has replaced two of those with freshmen in Larson and Smith, now playing second base.
“But we had those kids lying in wait,” Remington said. “This game of softball, it doesn’t really matter if you’re a freshman, or sophomore or senior. If you can play, if you can hit it, field it, throw it, catch it, you’re going to play for me. We’ve got the pieces now … it all has to play out.”
The Warriors stayed atop the league standings with the win, clinging to a narrow lead over Sweet Home (15-5, 11-2). Philomath won both the earlier matchups, 2-1 and 10-9.
The two teams meet Monday at Sweet Home. Philomath has five league games left, and a win Monday would be a big step toward another championship.
“I feel pretty good where we’re standing right now,” Russell said. “I think if we play our game we’ve got it.”