The Astoria Fishermen figured it was just a matter of time before they put it all together this baseball season.
Fortunately for them, they beat the clock.
Astoria (14-10) has defied its No. 14 seed to reach the semifinals of the 4A playoffs. The Fishermen went on the road for two wins, defeating third-seeded North Marion 2-1 in 10 innings in the first round and No. 11 Sweet Home 8-1 in the quarterfinals.
Next up is a Tuesday semifinal date at No. 2 Henley, marking Astoria’s third appearance in the final four in the last four seasons.
“It’s exciting because these kids have had it in them all season, and there’s just a few little weird things that happened where it feels like, ‘What’s going on?’” coach Glen Fromwiller said. “We were just wondering at times if we were going to click at the right moment. It’s come together pretty good here at the end.”
Astoria had lost five of seven games heading into the first round at North Marion (23-3), which had won seven in a row and held the No. 1 ranking in the OSAAtoday 4A coaches poll.
Junior pitcher Dylan Rush held the Huskies in check, allowing seven hits and one run in nine innings, and junior third baseman Adam Feldman delivered the game-winning hit, an RBI double in the 10th inning.
The win avenged a 13-3 loss to North Marion in mid-March and provided a springboard into the quarterfinals, where the Fishermen scored four runs in the first inning – three coming on a home run by Feldman – to handle Sweet Home.
After an up-and-down regular season, Astoria finds itself on top of a giant wave of momentum.
“There’s a fine line between containing it and riding it, but we’re riding it as far as we can go,” Fromwiller said.
Senior pitcher Will Reed followed Rush’s outstanding performance by tossing a two-hitter to beat Sweet Home. Rush (1.09 ERA, 70 innings, 44 strikeouts, 13 walks) and Reed (2.43 ERA, 55 innings, 51 strikeouts, 24 walks) have been steady all season, senior Calvin Kaul has provided a lift on the mound after missing his junior season with a shoulder injury and senior Burke Matthews has capably filled the closer role.
Fromwiller said the pitching staff “has probably been our one consistent thing all season long. Our pitching has either won the game or kept us in games when we were struggling in other places. We have four guys that are really confident pitchers.”
Feldman’s playoff heroics have highlighted a season in which he took some time to adjust to moving from catcher to third base. He is hitting .268 in the leadoff spot.
“That’s been a learning curve for him,” Fromwiller said. “He had some defensive struggles to start the season. He had a lot of action at him early. I think he’s become a lot more confident at that position. I also think it translates into overall confidence as a hitter.”
Junior catcher Ebin Hillard leads the team in batting (.406) and RBIs (18). Matthews (.312) and junior Ryan Stutznegger (304) also have been productive at the top of the order.
Fromwiller, in his second season as coach, spent 13 years assisting in the program, many of them under Dave Gasser, who won a state-record 750 games at four schools. Gasser coached the Fishermen to state titles in 2006 and 2009 before yielding to Brian Babbitt, who led them to their last title in 2011.
Gasser returned to coach the team for five seasons (2013-17) and remains a “big part of the baseball community” in Astoria, according to Fromwiller.
“I call him and ask questions and his advice,” Fromwiller said. “He’s a mentor to me and has been my entire career at Astoria. Being under him, you kind of try to keep the same kind of program and expectations. I feel like we made a pretty smooth transition.”