WARRENTON — From a 1-17 record in 2017, to the state quarterfinals in 2019.
Players on the current Warrenton baseball roster have certainly paid their dues to get there. And the result has been a quick two-year turnaround for Warrior baseball, which is back in the final eight for the first time since 2011.
Warrenton secured its spot in the 3A baseball quarterfinals with a 6-1 win Wednesday over Burns/Crane at Huddleston Field.
Three Warrenton pitchers combined on a four-hitter, and the Warriors scored five runs in a decisive second inning.
“We’ve worked hard to get to this point, and I’m very pleased,” said Warrenton coach Lennie Wolfe. “We talked earlier in the week about the fact that the guys need to understand that they’ve earned this. They deserve to feel like they should be out here and win a game. My gut instinct in what I saw today, is that there was a lot of confidence in what we were doing. It was a good day.”
The No. 7 seed Warriors (17-6) was scheduled to play Friday evening at No. 2 Brookings-Harbor (26-2). Friday’s winner will advance to the semifinals Tuesday to play either Santiam Christian or Taft. With Rainier still in contention, three of the final eight teams are from the Coastal Range League.
As for Wednesday’s win, the Warriors did not have a lot of offense (Burns pitcher Mick Winn allowed just three hits), but Warrenton took advantage of some timely walks and errors.
Winn walked five with three strikeouts, while Warrenton’s Devin Jackson, Gabe Breitmeyer and Dalton Knight combined to strike out nine, with no walks.
In Warrenton’s big inning, Alec Herrera singled to lead off the bottom of the second.
Kale’o Kapua reached on an error, which put runners at second and third with no outs. Winn retired two straight, and was an out away from escaping the inning.
The Hilanders intentionally walked Austin Little to load the bases, but Winn — unintentionally — walked the next two batters on just nine pitches, forcing in a pair of runs.
A ground ball by Duane Falls also could have ended the inning, but a poor throw to first resulted in an error, which scored two more runs.
Burns’ nightmare inning continued when an errant pickoff attempt by catcher Sean Wilber sailed into left field, scoring Jacob Morrow for a 5-0 lead.
That was all the Warrenton pitching staff needed. Jackson was replaced by Breitmeyer in the third inning, and the sidearm-throwing junior gave up an RBI single, but faced the minimum number of batters from the fourth through the sixth innings.
Knight retired three of four batters in the seventh.
Jackson got the victory on the mound, while Winn took the loss.
“We put the ball in play, and the kids forced them to have to make plays,” Wolfe said. “Obviously the big thing for us today was the way we pitched and defended. When they had a bit of a threat, we turned a double play (twice), and I was able to use three pitchers, which could potentially be big for Friday.
“The fact that (Jackson) gave us two-and-a-third innings, set the tone, Gabe came in and kept his pitch count where it had to be, then Dalton basically got a bullpen session. So we have three arms for the things we have to do Friday.”