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Baseball: No. 7 North Marion peaking at the right time

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Huskies beat No. 5 Newport to claim tie-breaker for second place in 4A Oregon West Conference

PHIL HAWKINS - North Marion leadoff hitter Andy Schmitz scored three runs in the Huskies' 10-4 win over Yamhill-Carlton on Friday. The Huskies have won six straight and nine of their past 11 games to climb into the top 10 of the OSAA rankings and vie for a bye through the play-in round of the 4A post season.
As the No. 7 North Marion baseball team rounds into the final week of the regular season, the Huskies are all but assured of yet another trip to the postseason. But where and whom they play will largely be determined by how well they perform this week at home.

The Huskies (15-6, 9-3 Oregon West) are in the midst of their best stretch of play this season, entering a three-game home stand to close out the season on the heels of a six-game win streak. North Marion has won nine of its last 11 games to vault into the top 10 of the OSAA standings, reaching as high as No. 3 last week before falling down four spots after a 10-4 home victory over Yamhill-Carlton on Friday.

While not always pretty, the win over the Tigers (4-12, 2-10) put the Huskies one win away from clinching a postseason berth as the final three games on the schedule loom this week.

"(They were) a little flat, but after a three-game week, they were pretty tired," head coach Randy Brack said after the win.

The Huskies came out strong against the Tigers, plating the first four batters in the bottom of the first to take a 4-0 lead and force Yamhill-Carlton to relieve starting pitcher Camden Myrick before recording a single out.

But a few miscues on defense by North Marion along with an early exit from starting pitcher Trevor Ensign due to injury allowed the Tigers to claw back a few runs in the second and third innings. This made it a 4-2 ballgame, but the Huskies ultimately settled down in the final half of the contest.

"This YC team, they're a little funny, because they're not afraid and they just scrap, scrap, scrap," Brack said. "I give them a lot of credit, they played well."

PHIL HAWKINS - North Marion sophomore Grant Henry turns a double play in the Huskies' 10-4 win over Yamhill-Carlton on Friday. Henry finished the game with two runs scored and a team-best two RBIs.Ensign exited the game after just two innings due to soreness in his pitching arm, making way for senior Tanner Scanlan in relief. Scanlan scattered nine hits and three earned runs over the last five innings to pick up the victory, while the offense poured on three runs each in the fourth and fifth innings to give the Huskies a 10-2 cushion to survive a small rally by the Tigers in the seventh.

Junior leadoff hitter Andy Schmitz went 2-for-3 with three runs scored, while freshman Sergio Jimenez started at shortstop for senior Dylan Doubrava, picking up two hits and three runs of his own. Grant Henry led the team with two RBIs and two runs scored.

But the status of Ensign's health could prove to be a big factor as the Huskies jostle for playoff position and hope to make a deep push in the state tournament.

"What (Ensign) showed me is more like a muscle type of thing, but you never know with those type of things, so we'll have to wait and see," Brack said. "With all the games we have coming up next week and beyond into the playoffs, we have three good starters, so it would be nice to have him."

Ensign makes up one-third of the team's pitching triumvirate, along with brothers Griffin and Grant Henry. Griffin Henry opened the week with a complete game victory at Cascade (10-10, 6-6), striking out 10 in five innings of a 13-1 win on May 1. Grant Henry followed with a complete game of his own on May 3 against No. 5 Newport (14-6, 8-4), striking out 9 in a decisive 12-2 win over the rival Cubs that had a huge impact on the conference standings and the upcoming playoff picture.

"They weren't saying anything, but the game on Wednesday was a big one," Brack said after the game against Yamhill-Carlton. "Pretty emotional. That made it really tough and it took a lot out of us."

North Marion took the season series and the conference tiebreaker with the victory, meaning the Huskies can clinch second place in the Oregon West with any combination of two wins of their own or two losses from Newport.

PHIL HAWKINS - Senior Tanner Scanlan relieved starter Trevor Ensign in Friday's win. Ensign left due to injury after pitching just two innings, and Scanlan came in to work the final five innings to earn the victory.
With second place in league comes a guaranteed home game against a much lower-ranked opponent in the play-in round, though if the Huskies win out this week, they could avoid the play-in round altogether and skip straight to the first round of the 4A tournament.

Although North Marion has little chance of catching league-leading No. 8 Philomath (14-5, 11-1), the Huskies can earn a play-in bye if they finish as one of the two best second-place teams in the 4A classification rankings.

And a win over a top-10 team like Philomath would go a long way toward securing that play-in bye. The two teams were scheduled to meet at North Marion High School on Monday for the third and final game of the season series.

The Warriors won the first two games of the series back in April, but the Huskies led in both games and are looking forward to getting one last crack at the defending league champs.

"It'll be interesting to see how we go out and play, because you have to play perfect," Brack said. "They pitch it well, they defend it well and they are very good hitters, so we're going to have to cash in on every opportunity we have."

The Huskies close out the week with home games against Stayton (1-17, 0-12) on Wednesday and against Cascade on Friday. From there, the OSAA rankings freeze on Saturday night and North Marion will simply have to wait and see where they shake out in the playoff picture.

"Hopefully we just keep doing what we're doing and we'd like to win out," Brack said. "We've got all three games at home, so we don't have to go anywhere."

Phil Hawkins covers all things sports and Gervais. He can be reached at 503-765-1194 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..