PHILOMATH — It had been more than three weeks since Kamden Combs had made an appearance in the circle for Philomath High’s softball team.
Illness had knocked Combs out of action for the last couple of regular-season games. But in a 9-2 victory Wednesday over Madras in the first round of the 4A playoffs, one could hardly notice that she had missed some time.
“I just came back from mono yesterday; I was gone for two weeks,” Combs said after a complete-game performance in the circle and a 4 for 4 afternoon at the plate. “I kinda struggled a little bit and relied on my teammates to make plays and give them at-bats and that helped a lot.”
Combs hadn’t pitched since May 7 at Newport.
“Obviously, she came out very strong, was a little rusty and gave up those two runs there, but then she settled in and finished how I expected her to,” coach Erik Remington said. “She’s very, very competitive and I’m glad she’s back.”
Madras (17-7) held a 2-1 lead going into the bottom of the third. The Warriors (20-8) had scored in the second inning when Combs doubled and scored on an Ashley Matthews single. But in the third, the bats really came alive.
Reagan Larson opened the inning with a walk followed by singles to left field by both Hannah Williams and Kiya Smith, the latter driving in Larson. After Kaili Saathoff worked a walk to load the bases, Combs smacked a shot that the center fielder couldn’t handle while Williams and Smith scored.
Matthews followed up with a double to center to drive in two more runs for a 5-2 lead. For Remington, he was glad to see the team finally put some serious runs on the scoreboard.
“It drives me crazy how long we have to wait and then we explode,” Remington said. “I’d like to come out early and explode like that but I was super excited for the freshman. I’ve been waiting for that swing all year.”
The coach was referring to the sixth inning when Smith cranked a two-run shot, her first of the season.
“On my last ball, I hit it to the warning track and she caught it,” Smith said. “So I just thought I have to hit it where they can’t catch it.”
And Smith was correct — Madras couldn’t make the play with the ball sailing well beyond the fence.
“Kiya had just missed on her second at-bat when she launched it to left,” Remington said. “When she hit that one, there was no doubt about it. She has lots of power.”
Philomath’s run in the fifth occurred when Combs drove in Saathoff, who had opened the inning with a double.
“I did well at the plate,” Combs said. “Usually, I don’t do that well and I’m better in the circle. But that felt good getting on base and helping the team out. It kept the energy up.”
Besides the 4 for 4 by Combs, Smith and Matthews each finished 2 for 4.
Combs threw 125 pitches in her seven innings, allowing five hits and four walks with one strikeout.
The Warriors (20-8) will now head to No. 2-seeded Henley, which beat Cascade, 13-5, in the first round and brings a 27-2 record into the game.
“Next to La Grande, Henley will be the next-best team we will have seen all year,” Remington said. “There’s no doubt in my mind that the winner of that game will play for the state title.”
Combs and the rest of the Warriors are confident.
“I think it’ll be a dogfight,” Combs said. “But if we play the way we have been, we should be able to take it.”