At first a long shot to get past the first round, the Astoria Fishermen now have a very real shot at their first state championship since 2011.
The Fishermen are halfway there, following an 8-1 win Friday at Sweet Home in a Class 4A baseball state quarterfinal.
With a win over No. 3 seed North Marion already under their belt, Astoria will play No. 2-seed Henley in a Tuesday semifinal, with a trip to the championship on the line.
A win will put Astoria into the title game (with their third different coach) for the sixth time since 2006.
But first, it will be another long road trip to face the Hornets.
“Bring it on,” said Astoria second-year coach Glen Fromwiller. “The kids are getting acclimated to being on the road. We’re playing well everywhere, so we’ll just jump on the bus and go wherever we have to.”
The Fishermen wasted little time in jumping on the scoreboard in Friday’s contest.
In the top of the first inning, Astoria’s Burke Matthews had a one-out double to center field, Ryan Stutznegger reached base on an error, and Ebin Hillard singled to load the bases.
Will Reed was hit by a pitch to force in the first run, and with two outs, Josiah Hirsch lined a single to center to score Stutznegger and Hillard to make it 3-0.
Reed advanced to third on a wild pitch, and he scored moments later on Balan Kolee’s infield single.
Dylan Rush walked on four straight pitches to re-load the bases, but Sweet Home pitcher Nate Virtue retired the final batter to end the half-inning.
But it was far too late, as the 4-0 lead for the Fishermen was plenty for Reed to work with as Astoria’s starting pitcher.
Reed did not give up a hit until the fourth inning, and went the distance on the mound, tossing a two-hitter with one strikeout and three walks.
“We played great defense,” Fromwiller said. “(The Huskies) put the ball in play, so give some love to Reed. He did a great job.
“But the four runs in the first inning … that settles everybody’s blood pressure and the heart rate goes down, and it definitely helps the pitcher,” Fromwiller said. “We batted through the entire order (in the first inning), which gave everybody a chance to see their pitcher — who also pitched well, but he struggled at times, and we just sat on the fastball.”
And offensively, the Fishermen jumped all over the Huskies, racking up six hits through just two innings, after collecting just four hits in their win two days earlier at North Marion.
Adding some insurance in the fifth inning, the Fishermen basically took batting practice on Sweet Home reliever Zachary Zanona.
After a fly-out to start the inning, Balan Kolee reached on a single and advanced to third on a double from Dylan Rush, and everybody scored on a three-run homer by Adam Feldman.
Still not done, Matthews had his second double and eventually scored on a double steal for an 8-1 lead, as the Fishermen collected 14 hits through just five innings.
Astoria finished with 15 hits, three apiece for Matthews and Hillard.
The first four batters in Astoria’s lineup combined for nine hits.
“Adam did great — he hit the three-run homer, and that helps,” Fromwiller said. “And Burke has been hitting everything. The last few games he has hit every ball hard.”