GRESHAM — Austen Carpenter has proved himself to be one of the best high school pitchers in the state all season, and Sherwood found that out why that was the case on Monday.
The Gresham senior southpaw gave up no runs on just one hit while striking out nine in 6 and 1/3 innings of work as Gresham defeated Sherwood 4-1 in a Class 6A state playoff first-round game played at Gresham High School.
"My goal against this team was to work the outer third of the plate all game...I ended up throwing a lot of strikes and luckily they couldn't put a bat on it," Carpenter said.
The Bowmen came into this game averaging more than five runs per ball game, but Carpenter was able to keep their bats silent for the whole afternoon.
"(Carpenter) has got some good stuff. I think it kind of sneaks up on guys. He's not overpowering by any means, but it took us a long time to even make some solid contact," Sherwood head coach Nate Hickok said.
With the victory, Gresham, the No. 2 team out of the Mt. Hood Conference, and the No. 8 team in the final OSAA power rankings, improved to 22-6 on the season. The Gophers also advanced to host Mt. Hood Conference rival Centennial in a state playoff second-round game on Wednesday.
Sherwood, the No. 4 team out of the Three Rivers League, and the No. 25 team in the power rankings, ended its season with a final record of 15-13.
Gresham, in Monday's playoff opener, got some early run support for Carpenter in the bottom of the first. Tyler Linch started the inning with an opposite field-single, followed by Ezra Samperi reaching on an error. A balk by Sherwood junior pitcher Riley Aggson allowed both runners to move up. Linch scored on on an infield single by Tyler Wood and Samperi scored after Jacob Biesterfeld hit into a fielder's choice to put Gresham up 2-0.
Despite the early offense from the Gophers, Aggson was still able to be effective against the Gresham lineup. Aggson gave up just one earned run on three hits in his first five innings on the bump, which kept his team in the game.
"I took a little bit off my fastball today and let (Gresham) put the ball in play. I have a lot of trust in my outfield and infield," Aggson said. "I had the confidence to pitch to contact because of our ability to play defense and get outs."
Arguably the biggest play of the contest took place in the top of the fourth inning. Sherwood finally had a threat going against Carpenter after a single by senior Harrison Grow and a walk by senior Andrew Edmunds. A groundout by senior Isaiah Burns moved both runners into scoring position with two outs.
Grow tried to score after Carpenter threw a wild pitch to the backstop, but Samperi was able to retrieve the ball quickly to nail Grow at the plate.
"That was a tough one. I definitely disagreed with the call, but it was a bang-bang play so I'll give blue the benefit of the doubt on that one," Hickok said. "We had plenty of opportunities in the game, we just didn't get it done."
What looked to be a costly mistake from Carpenter ended up being the a play that got the Gophers out of trouble, thanks to the quickness of Samperi behind the dish.
"I knew (Carpenter) was coming, so I got back there as quick as I could and gave him a good feed," Samperi said.
Samperi followed up his outstanding defensive play by jumpstarting the Gresham offense in the bottom of the sixth with a solo homer off Aggson to put Gresham up 3-0. A sacrifice fly to deep centerfield by Biesterfeld later in the frame allowed the Gophers to extend their lead to 4-0.
"We squared some balls up throughout the game that (Sherwood) was able to make plays on, so we knew we were going to get to (Aggson) eventually," Gresham head coach Ryan Miller said. "We have a lot of faith in the top of our lineup and their ability to put good swings on balls."
Sherwood, however, would not go away quietly. Carpenter would get the first out to start the seventh, but he had to be pulled and replaced by Jeramy Ross after reaching his pitch count limit. Ross struck out the first batter he faced, but after walking Aggson, Ross gave up back-to-back-singles to Burns and junior Bryce Vaughn.
Vaughn's RBI single cut the Gresham lead to 4-1 and brought the tying run to the plate in sophomore Anthony Garrett.
Ross was replaced by Biesterfeld on the bump to face Garrett. After Garret worked the count to 2-2, Biesterfeld got him to fly out to right field to end the ballgame.
Even with being eliminated, Hickok was proud of the way his team battled until the end.
"I think that showed a lot about this group in general...They are always resilient and they never give up on themselves," Hickok said.
The loss marked the final high school game for Sherwood seniors Brock Dovenberg, Grow, Burns, Kevin Skurdahl, John Sandilands, Dawson Abiley, Erik Smith and Edmunds.