The Grant Union/Prairie City Prospector baseball team advanced to the quarterfinals of the OSAA 2A/1A State Championships after defeating the Lakeview Honkers 8-4 May 22 in John Day.
The Prospectors will face the Kennedy Trojans at 3 p.m. Friday, May 24, in Mt. Angel.
Grant Union/Prairie City’s sharp one-through-nine lineup, junior Tristan Morris’ pitching and a timely catch from freshman center fielder Mason Morris were all elements of the Prospectors’ victory over the Lakeview Honkers in the round-two playoff battle at Malone Field at Seventh Street Complex.
“They just hit the ball really well, kept the ball moving, turning over the lineup and got some quality at-bats,” said Prospector head coach Doug Sharp of his team.
Tristan Morris had two strikeouts in the first inning, but the Honkers’ two-run double put them on the scoreboard early.
Prospector senior Roen Langum made several stops against the Honkers in his position at first base.
“Emotions were running high, and everybody had nerves going into it, but we overcame those nerves,” he said. “They got up in the first inning, but we knew it wouldn’t be for long, and we kept rallying.”
Grant Union hit the gas in the bottom of the second inning.
The Prospectors tied the score when Langum singled and Mason Morris doubled, sending his teammate home. Peyton Neault, Logan McCluskey and Jacob Vaughan also doubled in the inning to gain a 5-2 lead, McCluskey with 2 RBIs.
The Honkers had two runners on base in the fourth. Then Tristan Morris struck a batter out, and another Honker was out at first.
Lakeview had the bases loaded when Mason Morris made the grab for the final out of the inning.
Sharp said Mason “went all out” for the sinking line drive.
“That, right there, might have been the difference in the game,” Sharp said. “If he misses that ball, it gets by him, that’s three runs. That was a heck of a play by a freshman kid ... an incredible catch.”
Grant Union made steady gains with one run in the third and the fourth.
Prospector Russell Hodge, ninth in the lineup, hit a double in the sixth inning and scored a run off of Tristan Morris’ double to bring up the 8-4 lead.
Tristan Morris is Grant Union’s leadoff hitter, and Sharp said he’s been a pleasant surprise as pitcher.
“He came halfway through the season and said he’d like to pitch,” Sharp said. He noted the junior had previously injured his wrist and wasn’t sure if he’d gain mobility back.
“We got him in the bull pen,” the coach said. “It was just like — holy cow, he can pitch.”
Sharp said Kennedy is a well-coached team.
”They’re going to be fundamentally sound, but I like our chances,” he said. “You never know in these do-or-die games.”
He said his team plays with a lot of confidence, and though they were down early in the game against Lakeview, they didn’t let it rattle them.
“They just stay focused, they stay positive, and they just keep grinding away,” he said.
Kennedy is seeded No. 3 and Grant Union No. 6.
Grant Union placed first in Special District 7 with a 14-0 league record, 18-6 overall.
Kennedy placed first in Special District 2 with an 18-0 league record, 26-2 overall.
The winner of the quarterfinal match will advance to the Wednesday, May 29, semifinals. The championship final will be held Friday, May 31, in Keizer at the Salem/Keizer Volcano stadium. Cost of admission for each of the games is $8 for adults and $5 for students (age 5 through senior in high school).