WARRENTON - It's time to separate the contenders from the pretenders. Sixteen teams began play Wednesday in the opening round of the Class 2A state baseball playoffs.
And the final round of eight teams just wouldn't seem right without the Warrenton Warriors, who clinched their sixth annual trip to the quarterfinals with a 13-0 win over visiting Elgin at Huddleston Field.
The Warriors scored three runs in the first, six in the second and four in the third, then put it on cruise control the rest of the way for the first-round victory.
In all likelihood, it was the last home game of the year for the Warriors, who will play at Nestucca Friday. It was also the last home game for eight Warrenton seniors.
"We talked about that issue," said Warrior coach Lennie Wolfe, "but we said before the game, 'this is not about the seniors, or juniors or sophomores - we're playing a whole ball game.' It's a state playoff game, and every guy better be fired up.
"And I thought we were," he said. "We came out and hit very well, and ran the bases relatively well. We had a lot of line drive hits - that was the biggest thing - our contacts were pretty darn solid. We did what we had to do, and our pitchers threw well."
Dan Gates started and went three innings, allowing just one hit and a walk with five strikeouts. Jeff Pike pitched the fourth inning, and Nate McBride closed it out for the Warriors.
"This is my last game on this field - I had no idea until just a minute ago," Gates said after the game.
Gates, now 5-0 on the season, tossed the first three innings and allowed one hit with five strikeouts and a walk.
"I went out there and bore down," he said. "My back's been hurting all season, so the last couple games I've been thinking that I have to come out and throw hard.
"But not today - I was just thinking about my mechanics, keeping the ball down and throwing strikes."
While Gates was throwing strikes, the Warriors were busy building an early lead.
Zach Gantenbein had a leadoff single in the first, took second on a passed ball and moved to third on a balk.
Andy Horn followed with a sharp single to center to score Gantenbein.
The Huskies got out of the inning, but with two outs and runners at second and third, Warrenton's Tyler McGrorty belted a double off the left field fence, scoring both runners for a 3-0 lead.
The Warriors opened it up in the second as Jared Warner scored on a squeeze bunt by Kyle Johnson and Gantenbein sprinted home on a wild pitch.
Later in the inning, McGrorty, Tyler Birman and McBride had back-to-back-to-back run-scoring singles.
McGrorty capped the scoring in the third inning with a three-run blast over the left field fence.
"We were real focused today," said McGrorty, who matched his uniform number with six runs batted in. "We came out and hit the ball real well and played a good game.
"I had a real good day," he added. "I've been hitting a lot better than I had been. It's the right time to do it."
Johnson walked once, was hit by a pitch and drove in two runs.
"It kinda sucks that it's the last game that we'll ever play here," said Johnson, one of the eight seniors.
"Everybody's starting to hit the ball and we're playing well together," he said. "There's no individual stuff going on - everybody's got a team goal, and we're working for that."
Gates said, "the whole team just stepped up and did a great job today. Every aspect of our game was good. I can't point out any bad things we did today.
"We're pumped for the playoffs," he said. "We're up there right now, and hopefully we can keep it going. We just have to keep our heads in it and keep having fun."
Winning the first-round game in five innings should have Gates and the rest of the Warrior pitching staff well-rested for the next two rounds, should Warrenton make a return trip to the semifinals.
"It does help," Wolfe said. "You can keep your pitchers a little more fresh, and it gives all of them an opportunity to get their feet wet."
And if the Warriors make the semis, they won't see Regis, because the Rams lost an opening round game to Heppner, 5-4.
ARLINGTON - Knappa's John Evans blasted a pair of home runs to lead the Loggers to a 15-10 win at Condon/Arlington Wednesday, in a first-round game of the Class 2A state playoffs.
Knappa, 25-4 overall, plays at Santiam Christian (a 16-2 winner over Glendale) Friday.
After the Loggers' Cory Hyson reached base in the top of the first inning, Evans belted a 3-2 pitch over the fence for a quick 2-0 lead.
Brent Brockey added a ground-rule double later in the game and Toivo Fransen homered to help the Loggers take a 10-3 lead.
Condon, which lost two games to Knappa in the preseason, chipped away at the lead, but Evans put the game away with another home run in the seventh inning.
Seaside 5, Marist 4
EUGENE - The Seaside Gulls scored the first big upset of the Class 3A state baseball tournament Wednesday as they knocked off the Marist Spartans in Eugene, 5-4, in a second-round game on the Spartans' home field.
How tough is the Cowapa League? The third-place Gulls and their 6-9 league record have now advanced all the way to the state quarterfinals, following their eight-inning victory over the state's second-ranked team.
Marist won the Sky-Em League with a 14-2 mark, but couldn't hold off the Gulls, who overcame a 3-0 deficit with four runs in the fifth inning.
"I told the guys after the game that it was one of the greatest games I've ever witnessed," said Seaside coach Joel Dierickx, whose team will host top-ranked Grant Union Friday at Broadway Field. "It was a gutty performance by all of 'em. And any time you go into extra-innings with the exciting atmosphere of a state playoff game, that makes it even more special."
A three-run home run in the fifth by Seaside's Jon Wickersham made things plenty exciting, because it sparked the Gulls to a 4-3 lead. Marist tied it in the sixth on a solo home run by Dane Butler.
After a scoreless seventh, Seaside's Vito Cerelli led off the top of the eighth inning with a triple, his only hit of the game.
Donnie Udell followed with a fly ball to right field. Cerelli tagged on the hit, sprinted home and scored as he slid under the tag of the Marist catcher.
The Spartans had a leadoff double in the bottom of the eighth, but Udell - on in relief of Ross Maier - got the next two batters to pop out to first baseman Mark Budnick and second baseman Josh Emmerling, then struck out the final batter for the win.
Maier started on the mound for the Gulls and went seven innings, allowing eight hits and two walks with one strikeout.
"Ross had a masterful performance, and our defense was absolutely stellar," Dierickx said. "Wickersham had the big hit for us, Ross did as much as can be expected on the mound, and Zack Nyberg played a great game defensively at third base."
Butler tossed the first seven-plus innings for the Spartans, giving up all five runs on nine hits.
Wickersham, who went 4-for-5 in Seaside's first-round win over La Salle, went 2-for-4, as did Juston Bowman and Budnick.
Rainier 5, La Pine 1
RAINIER - Broc Coffman tossed a complete-game, three hitter for Rainier Wednesday, leading the Columbians to a 5-1 win over La Pine in a first-round game of the 3A state baseball playoffs.
Coffman struck out 13, allowed three walks and had an RBI single at the plate. Grant Bergerson had a double and scored twice for the Columbians, who scored four runs in the third inning.
Rainier hosts Sisters Friday.
Knappa 5, Union 0
UNION - The Knappa softball team took advantage of two costly errors by Union in the sixth inning on its way to a 5-0 win over the Bobcats Wednesday in a first-round game of the Class 2A state playoffs.
The Loggers, who improve to 20-7 overall, move on to the quarterfinals, where they will face Monroe Friday on the Dragons' home field.
Wednesday's game at Union was scoreless through five innings. In the top of the sixth, Bobcat pitcher Jennifer Sasser struck out the first two batters and had two strikes on Toni Ramvick. She hit a single, and was followed by the next four batters who reached base on two hits and two errors.
Knappa scored four runs in the sixth and added one in the seventh - more than enough for starter Nathalie Matson.
Matson allowed five hits with five strikeouts and a walk in going the distance on the mound.
"She was definitely the fastest pitcher we've seen all year," said Union coach Steve Robertson. "She threw harder than anyone we've seen.
"I thought both pitchers threw well," he said. "It was a good game until the fifth inning, when our world fell apart."
The Loggers had just four hits, from Ramvick, Jennifer Fransen, Misty Brown and Rene'e Evans. Evans drove in two runs.
Union, which finishes 15-4 overall, had just two league wins in the last two years before winning the Eastern Oregon League this year.