The North Marion baseball team's season came to a close on May 24, falling 10-4 to the hosting Banks Braves in the opening round of the 2017 OSAA 4A Baseball tournament.
In a first round match between top 10 teams, the No. 9 Huskies (18-8, 11-4 Oregon West) were looking to return to the quarterfinal round after a one-year absence from the state playoffs. But the No. 7 Braves (17-6, 12-3 Cowapa League) — a semifinalist one year ago — had plans of their own, playing an error-free game while hitting well from every position in the lineup to punish North Marion pitchers Grant and Griffin Henry.
"They swung the bat extremely well," North Marion head coach Randy Brack said. "Just the way they hit the ball up and down the lineup made it really difficult to do anything for us."
The game began well for the Huskies, who were able to put their first four batters on base, taking a 1-0 lead when sophomore Grant Henry belted a shot up the middle to bring home senior Dylan Doubrava. But the Braves repaid the favor when brother Griffin Henry took the mound in the bottom of the inning.
Banks put their first two runners on base and brought them both home on a one-out double to give the Braves a 2-1 lead. Henry struck out the next batter, and the Huskies were able to get out the inning without any more damage.
The two teams quickly put up scoreless second innings before the Huskies took the lead back in the top of the third. Back at the top of the order, North Marion loaded the bases with back-to-back singles from junior Andy Schmitz and Doubrava, followed by a walk drawn by sophomore Nic Iliyn.
Grant Henry drove in his second run of the game on a sacrifice fly to center field that brought home Schmitz. Doubrava followed suit two batters later when Griffin Henry struck out on a wild pitch from Banks starter Dalton Renne. The out would have ended the inning, but the catcher was unable to find the pitch after it got away from him, allowing Doubrava to score from third while Griffin Henry was able to reach first safely before the Braves put a halt to North Marion's run and ended the inning down 3-2.
But once again the Braves were quick to respond with three straight singles to tie the game at 3-3. The Huskies looked like they would be able to get out of the inning by striking out the next batter and tagging out Herb on the base paths, but the Braves rallied with two outs left, putting three more runs on the board to make it 6-3.
The Huskies took a run back in the top of the fourth with a double from senior Tanner Scanlan to open the inning. Junior Noah Vachter moved Scanlan to third on a sacrifice and Schmitz drove him in to cut into the deficit before the Braves ended the inning.
With Grant Henry taking over for Griffin to open the bottom of the fourth, the Braves continued to put pressure on the base paths. Evans reached base on an error, followed by sophomore Dakota Bunn, both of whom were driven in by senior Justin Bral to extend Banks' lead to 8-4.
North Marion had one last opportunity to get back into the game in the top of the fifth when Iliyn opened with a double to left field. He advanced to third on a wild pitch to Grant Henry, who was walked to put runners on the corner.
When junior Hunter Schrenk came up to bat next, Grant Henry made a break for second on a pitch that Schrenk sent screaming back toward the pitcher, striking Renne in the back of the leg as he was attempting to get out of the way of the hit.
The ball bounced back toward home, putting Renne in the perfect position to field the ball in time to throw Iliyn out at home.
"It was kind of a crucial run not to get right there," Brack said. "If it goes two feet to the left or right of him, it doesn't hit him in the leg and all of a sudden now, it's 8-5 and we've got runners on first and second."
North Marion still had two more innings to stay in the game, but were unable to get anything going in the sixth and seventh while Banks added two more in the sixth to bring the game to its final margin of victory.
Brack congratulated the Braves after the game for how well they played, amassing 11 hits while putting up runs in four of six innings in which they were on offense to earn a trip to No. 2 Henley in the quarterfinals, a rematch of last year's semifinal game.
"If we would have played a completely clean, perfect game, they way they swung the bat, it would have been hard for us to beat them." Brack said.
Despite the big offensive night for the Braves, Brack was pleased with his two sophomore pitchers, who combined to strike out 11 batters.
"I thought both Griffin and Grant threw well," Brack said. "Their velocity was really good, their breaking ball was good, but boy their hitters just made adjustments and always put balls in play."
On the other side of the plate, Grant Henry led the team going 1-for-2 with two RBI. Doubrava led the team with two runs scored. The Huskies were relatively disciplined at the plate, striking out just four times compared to 11 whiffs for Banks.
"You just see that stat and you figure North Marion won the ball game," Brack said. "Tell me that before the game and I'm already planning to go to Henley."
The loss was the final game for the Huskies' two seniors — Dylan Doubrava and Tanner Scanlan — who took much different paths to get to Banks last week.
A member of the varsity team for his entire high school career, Doubrava has been in the thick of the team's four-year playoff run, with nine postseason games under his belt, including a trip to the semifinals as a freshman and the quarterfinals as a sophomore.
He's been able to experience an awful lot as a player, and he's been in the middle of everything," Brack said. "As he's gotten older, he's turned into our leader. He's going to be missed a lot because of all that experience and what he meant to us."
Doubrava was one of five players named to the all-conference First Team this year, an acknowledgement from opposing coaches of his athleticism, skill and ability in every facet of the game as the league's top shortstop.
"He's right in the heart of it and has been lead-off to No. 2 guy, a great base runner and kind of gets us going," Brack said.
In contrast, Scanlan was a one of the top golfers in the Oregon West Conference who gave up his final year on the links to play baseball for the first time since middle school. Brack admits that he wasn't optimistic of Scanlan's ability to see much playing time this season despite the senior's pedigree as an all-state athlete in football and basketball.
"He's an athlete, but sometimes being a good athlete and being able to pick up and hit a ball are two different thing," Brack said.
But Scanlan surprised the coaching staff, coming into camp with a relatively high skill level and was able to help the team as a relief pitcher while doing spot duty in the outfield, earning Honorable Mention honors on the mound. And he brought the leadership and experience that had made him such an indispensable leader on the football and basketball teams.
"He brought the attitude, and the other players really respected him," Brack said. "It worked out where it was just beautiful. Helped us on the mound, in the outfield, he did some great things."
All told, North Marion garnered 10 all-conference awards, including Oregon West Co-Pitcher of the Year Griffin Henry. He joined Doubrava, Schmitz, Iliyn and Grant Henry as First Team selections. Trevor Ensign, Schrenk and Vachter each earned Second Team honors, while Scanlan and Bryce Lemon were picked as Honorable Mention players, giving North Marion the most all-league players despite finishing second in the standings.