Gladstone High School's Austin Conner, Jake Gehrke, Mathew Kuhn, and Matthew Lehrbach officially closed the book on their high school baseball careers.
The four players represented the Gladiators along with Gladstone coach Casey Webster on the North team during the June 15-16 Class 4A Baseball All-Star Series at North Marion High School in Aurora.
Conner went 1 for 2 with an RBI, Lehrbach added a hit and scored a run, and Gehrke and Kuhn scored one run each to help lead the North to a 5-2 victory in Saturday's series opener.
The South bounced and swept Sunday's doubleheader, winning the first game 8-7 in eight innings, and then scoring the go-ahead run in the sixth inning for a series-clinching 3-2 victory in the second game.
In the series finale, Lehrbach was on second base with one out in the seventh inning, but was left stranded in scoring position when South starter Seth Forsythe of Ontario retired Philomath's Brooks Stearns on a game-ending fly out to center field.
"It's sad to see it end," Lehrbach said. "I've played with these guys all through youth baseball. You play with someone that long, you develop some really good chemistry, and then when you go and play with new people, you realize how helpful team chemistry is.
"So, it's sad to see us go our separate ways, but we're all going with a purpose and going and doing our own thing."
Conner and Kuhn signed letters of intent to continue their playing careers at Oregon Tech in Klamath Falls, while Lehrbach plans to walk on at Clark College in Vancouver.
Gehrke said he'd like an opportunity to continue playing somewhere, even if that means trying to make it as a walk-on.
It's also possible that Sunday's series finale was also Gehrke's final game.
"It's crazy," Gehrke said. "It seems like I just started playing Gladstone High School baseball yesterday. It's just gone by in a blur."
The four Gladstone All-Stars were part of an extraordinary four-year stretch that saw the Gladiators go 63-43 overall and 45-15 in the Tri-Valley Conference, highlighted by the 2018 team's run to the OSAA Class 4A state championship — the first in program history.
"It all went by pretty quickly," Lehrbach said. "Three of us (Conner, Kuhn, and Lehrbach) were on varsity all four years, so it's weird playing that last high school game, because now everything feels just a little bit different."
Said Kuhn: "It was awesome to get Web to coach us one last time. I've play with most of these guys since the first game in Little League, all the way from tee-ball. It's sad to see it come to an end, but … it's time."
Saturday's nine-inning series opener was tied 2-2 in the eighth inning when the North sent seven batters to the plate and scored three runs on two hits and one South error.
Newport's Cole Braxling reached on an error to lead off the North seventh and scored the go-ahead run when Seaside's Peyton Westerholm singled up the middle. Burke Matthews of Astoria then hit a two-out single to center that scored Lehrbach and Gehrke to make it 5-2.
In the opening game of Sunday's double-header, the North scored three runs in the top of the seventh inning to take a 6-4 lead, but the South scored two in the bottom half of the inning to tie it.
In the eighth, Slater's RBI-triple scored Newport's Ryan Torres to make it 7-6, but the South answered when Cascade's Kyle McAlister scored on an error and then Forsythe scored the winning-run on Dawson Linscott's sacrifice fly to center.
Sunday's series finale was tied 2-2 in the sixth inning when Sweet Home's Nate Virtue drew a two-out walk, stole second, and scored the go-ahead run on Isaac Zamora's double to left.
Lehrbach kept the North's hopes alive when he reached on an error with one out in the seventh inning and then went to second on an errant pickoff attempt. Two outs later, the game was over with Lehrbach still standing on second.
"I enjoyed the series. It was fun," Lehrbach said. "With all the kids that are here, you're not going to get a ton of at-bats in three games, so it was more about going up and just enjoying the at-bats while you have them."
Lehrbach went 2 for 3 with two runs scored, Conner went 1 for 5 with two RBIs, Kuhn went 0 for 5 with two RBIs, a stolen base, and one run scored, and Gehrke went 0 for 5 with a run scored.
Conner also started on the mound in Sunday's final game and worked five innings, allowing two runs (one earned) on four hits with one walk and four strikeouts. He left with the game tied 2-2, handing the ball to Seaside's Westerholm, who took the loss.
"It was nice to pitch again, but I got sore and tired pretty fast because I haven't pitched in about three weeks," Conner said. "The first two innings, I threw like I normally throw, but then the last three, I was kind of easing the ball in because I was starting to get sore."
North Marion's Griffen Henry was named the tournament's Most Valuable Player, while separate awards went to Astoria's Matthews (outstanding North player, North), Newport's Jacob Dobmeier (outstanding North pitcher), Philomath's Stearns (most inspirational North player), Phoenix's Mason Stella (outstanding South player), Ontario's Forsythe (outstanding South pitcher), and Henley's Andrew Reynolds (most inspirational South player).
"This was great competition," Conner said. "This is awesome because almost all these kids are going on to play college baseball, so it's like seeing college-level talent and it gets you ready for the next level.
"And it's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, because none of us are ever going to play in another high school baseball All-Star game, so that makes it awesome, too."
Added Kuhn: "I really enjoyed it. I knew a lot of names of the guys down South and knew that they were good, but being up North we never had a chance to play against most of them, so it was nice to see those guys for one final time."
SOUTH 000 000 020 — 2 6 4
NORTH 100 010 03X — 5 5 4
Bullock, Serean (5), Smith (8) and Loney, Keller (7); Griffin Henry, Lilly (6), Grant Henry (9) and Grant Henry, Stearns (7). W — Lilly. L —Smith. LOB — South 11, North 8. 2B — Reynolds, Gibson, Grant Henry.
NORTH 003 000 31 — 7 8 4
SOUTH 002 002 22 — 8 8 1
Dobmeier, Reed (6), Matthews (7) and Stearns, Grant Henry (7); Zamora, Vancurler (6), Virtue (7) and Keller, Loney (6). W — Virtue. L — Matthews. LOB — North 9, South 10. 2B — Griffin Henry, Matthews, Vancurler. 3B — Slater.
NORTH 000 020 0 — 2 6 1
SOUTH 000 201 X — 3 5 4
Conner, Westerholm (6) and Grant Henry, Stearns (7); Forsythe and Keller, Loney (5). W — Forsythe. L — Westerholm. LOB — North 7, South 5. 2B — Zamora.
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