Scappose coach Cameron Webb (fourth coach from left) talks to his charges after repeating as 4A champions
Scappose coach Cameron Webb (fourth coach from left) talks to his charges after repeating as 4A champions

KEIZER – Joe Fagan threw a complete-game three-hitter and drove in a run as Scappoose defended its 4A title with a 5-4 win over Marist Catholic Saturday evening at the OSAA / OnPoint Community Credit Union State Baseball Championships at Volcanoes Stadium in Keizer.

The game, played in cool, overcast conditions with swirling winds, was a pitcher’s duel until it wasn’t, was a blowout until it wasn’t, and will be remembered as a classic matchup between a team trying to repeat versus one that hadn’t played in a final in 40 years.

The title was the sixth all-time for Scappoose but the only time the team won after winning the previous season.

“For these kids, it’s the first time we’ve gone back-to-back in baseball,” Scappoose head coach Cameron Webb said. “It’s amazing. These guys made history.”

Scappoose finished the year with a 25-5 record. One of the losses came to Marist Catholic in an early-season doubleheader, which the teams split. Scappoose finished the season like champions, winning 15 of its last 16 games.

“This year the team fought pressure all season long about having to repeat,” Webb explained. “We talked just staying loose and keeping our focus on ourselves. The way the guys really bought into that and had fun and kept playing shows a ton of maturity. It was cool to see.”

For Marist Catholic, a team making its first finals appearance since 1984, it was a game of “what might have been.” The Spartans barreled a lot of balls that were caught and Scappoose found holes with timely hits.

“I thought we played fine,” said Marist Catholic coach Noah Breslaw. “We did a lot of things right. It seemed like we hit the ball well, just at guys. Stuff was caught. That’s baseball.”

The game began with Fagan, a junior right hander for Scappoose, getting through three innings without allowing a hit. Only a one-out fielding error in the first prevented a perfect start.

Junior Niko Leyba matched Fagan out for out through the first seven batters of the game.  The eighth batter, DH Brandon Neilson, probably should have made an out, too, but his 2-2 pop fly to right center dropped in the triangle for a hit between 2B Tanner Mullens, CF Peyton Tyner and RF Stephen Riley. Colton Sprenger followed with a double down the right field line, which put runners on second and third, and leadoff batter Quinton Olson plated them both with a slicing fly ball to left that dropped just inside the foul line for a double. Fagan completed the three-run frame with a line drive single to right to drive home Olson.

“The first ball went into no man’s land, then it seemed the next two balls went to places we just weren’t,” Breslaw said. “Today felt like one of those days when we had a bad day on the field. They’re a very good team and you have to have things go your way.”

Marist Catholic responded to Scappoose’s crooked number by scoring a run in the top of the fourth. Tyner walked on four pitches with one out, to end Fagan’s streak of retiring nine in a row, and, one out later, Raith Huffman launched a deep triple to straightaway center, which Leland Boswell almost made a spectacular play on, to plate the Spartan run. Fagan limited the damage by getting the next batter to pop out to second to end the inning.

Scappoose added to its lead in the bottom of the fourth with two big runs. RF Eli Harrah banged Leyba’s first offering over 3B Ryan Lemley’s head and down the line for a single and stole second. Boswell sacrificed Harrah to third and he came home on Neilson’s second single of the day. Sprenger followed with a squib single to put runners on the corners and chase Leyba with one out. Reliever Drew Wooten, one of only three seniors on the roster, came on and threw a pitch to the backstop that plated Scappoose’s fifth run, but escaped further damage thanks to a diving catch in left center by Cash Andrus.

Fagan and Wooten both threw goose eggs in the fifth, with Wooten working around a one-out single by Max Nowlin, but Marist Catholic showed life in the sixth inning thanks to the top of its lineup.

A walk and single started the frame for the Spartans, who also got a full-count walk by Tyner to load the bases with no outs. Fagan struck out the clean up hitter, but hit the next batter, Huffman, on the foot to drive in a run. Gianni Lombardi singled through the left side to drive in another as Marist went station to station.

The bases were still stacked with Spartans when DH Robbie Harden came to the plate with two outs. He hit a one-hop rocket off the chest of Olson at short that caromed into the short grass behind second base. One more run came home but the tying run scrambled back to third. A fly ball ended the threat with three runs, not four, across and Marist Catholic trailing by a scant run.

Scappoose got a runner as far as second in the bottom of the sixth, but could not bring him home, setting the stage for Marist to tie or go ahead in its final at bats of regulation play.

Scappoose had senior Grayson Grover, its No. 1 pitcher all season long, warm and ready to go, but elected to stick with Fagan against the same top of the lineup that had done the damage the inning before.

“We thought Joe was looking good,” Webb said. “Even after the sixth when he gave up runs, he’d only given up three hits on the whole day. I asked how he was feeling. He said he was feeling good. I asked him whether he wanted to finish it and he said, ‘Yes.’ So I said, ‘Let’s do it.”

Fagan worked ahead on all three batters he faced and got all three to fly out.

“I had all the confidence in the world and knew my defense, which is the best defense in 4A, would back me up,” Fagan said.

When the last one nestled in the glove of Sprenger, one of 11 outs by Marist to the outfield, Scappoose had repeated.

“After we had the big lead for a while, I told the guys, ‘Do not expect it to be easy,’ Webb said. “That last out was nerve wracking.”

Fagan threw 105 pitches in the route-going performance. He yielded three hits, walked two, hit two and struck out four.

“He’s just one of the most competitive kids you’ll find,” Webb said. “In a game like this you love handing the ball to a competitor like that. He’s got faith in himself. He believes he can get any guy out and will keep attacking him.”

Nowlin had two hits as part of Scappoose’s 10-hit attack, as did Neilson and Sprenger, the eighth and ninth batters in the order.

“I think our depth has been our strength,” Webb said. “We’re strong 1 through 9 and beyond that. We stuck with our approach: attack fastball. Their first guy threw a lot of curves. We just had to stay patient.”

Marist Catholic may have only produced three hits, but the Spartans (20-10) made a lot of quality contact. They did not play like a team playing under the spotlight for the first time in 40 years.

“A couple of balls get down tonight and it’s a different game,” Breslaw said. “I think it gives us the hunger to want to come back. We’re graduating three seniors off of this team. They’re big three seniors but seven guys who were playing defense today will be in our defensive lineup next year, so I think we have a shot to make a run at it next year now that we’ve been here. I’m hoping we have a better result if we make it back. It’s still baseball and it’s tough to even get back to this game.”

Scappoose, with Fagan, Olson, Nowlin and Neilson, among others, coming back, may be right there with Marist Catholic come this time next year.

“Ask any kid on this team and they’ll tell you we’re just getting started,” Webb said.

Is a threepeat, to match the feat West Linn accomplished in 6A this year, possible?

Fagan thinks so.

“We have a big chance,” he said. “Work starts tomorrow.”