Sean Larson, EDN Sports
For the first time in six years, the South Eugene Axemen returned to the OSAA 6A state baseball playoffs Monday night in Eugene to take on the Sunset Apollos, and due to weather, played on a bigger stage than they were expecting.
The game, originally scheduled for 5 pm at South Eugene High School, was moved to 7 pm at PK Park due to rain.
It was a pitching battle early on between South Eugene’s Joe Schindler and Sunset’s Zane Bambusch, but it was Sunset’s bats that broke through first.
Sunset senior Cam Russ roped a triple over the head of Alex Wectawski, who had misplayed the ball, to drive home senior Austin Hempy to give the Apollos an early 1-0 lead. A fielders choice groundout from Landon Coffey scored Russ to give Sunset a 2-0 lead after the top of the third.
Bambusch turned in a dominant pitching performance for Sunset, as the senior had only given up one hit through five innings, while Schindler’s pitch count was rising rapidly.
“Early in the ballgame they got a few more at bats then us and that really made a difference,” said South Eugene head coach Chris Vermeer.
Sunset would add to their lead in the top of the 6th when junior Ben Burros hit a pitch into the gap in right field, scoring junior Trevor Caldwell to build the Sunset lead to three.
South Eugene would threaten in the bottom of the sixth, but could not get any runs on the board, stranding a runner on third.
“We had opportunities to score runs, but it didn’t happen for us,” said Vermeer.
Cam Jack would come on to pitch in relief for the Schindler in the seventh inning. Schindler gave up just three hits, and while he gave up three runs, only one was earned.
South Eugene would catch a bit of luck in the seventh when a throw from catcher Ben Giland attempting to stop a stolen base attempt from Cam Russ sailed into the outfield. Russ however, would stay at second.
Then a diving stop from Adam Scalisi at second base saved a potential run, and South Eugene escaped the seventh without giving up any runs.
The Axemen would show some fight in the final inning as Cam Jack led off with a single to center field and would advance to second on a stolen base. The next display of base running from Jack wasn’t nearly as pretty.
Jack seemed to forget how many outs there were in the inning as he took off for third when a shallow fly ball was hit to right. Jack furiously tried to sprint back to second, but was gunned out by several feet, and just like that, South Eugene’s post-season run had come to an end just as quickly as it had begun.
“We battled,” said Vermeer. “We needed to get control of this game early and give ourselves some margin for error and we didn’t do that.”
Vermeer connected that to the fact that the Axemen were a young team with only two seniors.
“With a young team, if you don’t have a lot of margin for error it’s troublesome,” said Vermeer.
South Eugene finishes 13-13 on the season while Sunset improves to 17-10. The Apollos will advance to face the Thurston Colts (23-4), who are one of the favorites to win the state championship this season. The winner of that matchup will advance to Friday’s quarterfinals.
In other local action, the Sheldon Irish defeated Reynolds 13-0 and the Thurston Colts advanced following a 9-2 victory over Glencoe.