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Coach Dwayne Nowlin reflects on historic season that included the first state playoff win in program history

WOODBURN INDEPENDENT PHOTO: PHIL HAWKINS
 - Reid Overfield takes a cut in the Bucks' 13-6 loss to Kennedy on May 22 in the first round of the 2A/1A playoffs.

MOUNT ANGEL -- The St. Paul baseball team's 2019 season came to a close last week in the second round of the 2A/1A state playoffs, losing 13-6 to the No. 3 Kennedy Trojans on May 22.

Two days after the Buckaroos (16-14, 8-10 Special District 1) had won their first round game in the seventh inning against the Santiam Wolverines, and playing their fourth consecutive elimination game in the past eight days, St. Paul simply had little answer for a Kennedy team (27-2, 18-0 SD2) that entered the contest having lost just one game against an Oregon opponent all year.

"They play great defense," SPHS coach Dwayne Nowlin said. "They just do all the small things right, and that's coaching. Hats off to them."

Even without No. 1 starting pitcher Justin Herberger, who went the distance against Santiam on May 20 for the Bucks' first state playoff win in program history, St. Paul was able to stay with a Kennedy team that had given up six runs just three other times this season.

Following a first-inning run scored by the Trojans to open the game, the Bucks tagged Kennedy starting pitcher Dylan Kleinschmit for three runs and held a 3-1 lead going into the bottom of the fourth.

That's when the Trojan bats erupted.

Kennedy dropped six runs on the Bucks in the bottom of the frame, and although St. Paul got one back in the fourth, the Trojans followed with five more. By the time the dust had settled, Nowlin's crew was looking at a 12-4 deficit heading into the fifth with not enough time to make up the difference.

Despite the loss, this year's St. Paul team has plenty to hang its hat on. Coming into spring training in his first year coaching the team, Nowlin's kids approached him with the goal of winning an elusive state playoff game.

"(They said) 'Nobody has ever won a playoff game here, because we're always the 1A school playing the bigger schools,'" Nowlin recalled. "'We just want to win a playoff game, that's our goal.'"

With the combined baseball classification, much of the sport's landscape is dominated by 2A programs. The last 1A school to win a state championship was Umpqua Valley Christian in 2009. St. Paul was one of just four 1A teams that managed to advance to the Sweet 16 of the state playoffs and was the lone 1A presence in a league dominated by the two-time defending state champion Knappa Loggers (24-1, 18-0 SD1).

As if that weren't enough, the team was beset by injuries. Power-hitter Alex Dela Cerda was unable to suit up all season, Rawley Koch missed the first 12 games, and Zach Brentano, Mitch Curtis and Herberger all worked through ailments during the year that kept them from playing at full strength.

"When we were healthy, we could have played with anybody but Knappa," Nowlin said. "We were picked to come in fourth or fifth, (and) we were two games out of second place with all the injuries."

The team showed it come the post season when the Bucks were as close to healthy as the team had been since opening day. St. Paul won back-to-back league playoff games against Portland Christian and Nestucca to earn the league's third state playoff berth, and followed with a 2-0 gem over Santiam five days later in the first round to make program history.

It was enough to make anyone a Buckaroo convert, and after 25 years of coaching, Nowlin has completely bought in to the St. Paul experience.

"All of these kids have grown up together, they've played together," he said. "That was a neat thing and seeing all the pictures of these kids when they're in first grade playing tee ball together."

And it's not just the players. Everywhere the Bucks went, from Knappa to Bandon to Nestucca, the St. Paul blue and white was always there to greet the team.

"I look up in the crowd and there are all these people there, all these fans there," Nowlin said. "It doesn't matter if we're good or bad, the fans at St. Paul are amazing."

It will be tough for the Bucks to recover from losing seven seniors next year, including starters Herberger, Brentano, Koch and Jackson. But with a solid core of seven juniors, a dedicated base of players that featured 30 athletes coming out this year, and what Nowlin considers one of the best small school baseball complexes in the state, the new coach can hardly wait for 2020 to come.

"It was a great experience to be at St. Paul for me," Nowlin said.

Sports briefs

Newberg youth football camp set for June 24-27

The Newberg youth football program is inviting players interested in a non-contact camp to sign up soon.

The camp – for kids in first through seventh grade – runs from 4 to 7 p.m. June 24-27 at the NHS football stadium. Newberg varsity coach Kevin Hastin will lead the camp along with assistant coaches and varsity athletes.

Instruction will include football combine experience, offensive and defensive fundamentals and 7-on-7 competitions.

Cost is $75 if pre-registered before June 1 or $120 for two players from one family. Those fees increase to $100 and $150 if registered after June 1. Scholarships are available for families in need of assistance.

For more information on how to register, email Hastin at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Boys basketball camp slated for June 18-20

Youth boys basketball players in Newberg are invited to attend the program's annual summer camp for kids entering third through eighth grade. The camp runs June 18-20 in the gyms at Newberg High School. Incoming third through fifth grade students go from 9 to 11 a.m. and incoming sixth through eight grade students go from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. All campers will receive individualized instruction from NHS basketball staff and players, a free t-shirt in their requested size and opportunities to win prizes throughout the week.

The camp director is coach Mark Johnson, a former member of the men's basketball team at George Fox University and a member of the NHS boys basketball staff. Cost is $50 if registered by June 14 or $60 at the door, with a $5 discount for families with multiple athletes registered. For more information, email Mark Brown at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or visit website: www.newbergboysbasketball.com.


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