Huskies hold the edge in league the title race as the season nears its finish line

PMG PHOTO: PHIL HAWKINS - North Marion junior Evan Holman rounds third base en route to one of the Huskies' three runs in the first inning of the team's 5-3 win over Gladstone on April 26.Seasons and players change; global pandemics come and go, but one truth remains forever constant — the North Marion and Gladstone baseball games will go down to the last inning.

The two programs proved just that in a pair of tightly-contested matches that went to the Huskies last week; a 5-3 win at home on April 26 and a 7-6 victory on the road two days later.

"Our last five meetings that we played, the largest margin of victory happened one time was two runs on Monday (April 26)," North Marion head coach Randy Brack said. "All the other ones were one-run games."

The last time the two Tri-Valley rivals played in 2019, North Marion took the season series 2-1, each game of which was decided by a single run. Going back further, the two teams have consistently been equally matched, playing within three runs of each other every season since 2015 when the Gladiators knocked the Huskies out of the first round of the state playoffs by a 15-8 margin.

"It's just what it is," Brack said. "It's just been amazing."

And while there's still four league games left on the schedule, North Marion's two wins over the only other contender in conference puts the Huskies in the driver's seat to claim the league title and the automatic berth to the 4A Showcase tournament later this month. Not too shabby for a team whose last on-field action was nearly two years ago coming into this season.

"I've got kids playing varsity baseball who last played as seventh grade," Brack said. "Playing games against Gladstone that comes down to the last pitch with possibly the league title on the line.

"I'm just super happy with the way we responded to all of this. We've done a great job and kids have filled in where they have to fill in."

PMG PHOTO: PHIL HAWKINS - After giving up three runs in the opening inning to Gladstone, North Marion junior Hunter Hansen held the Gladiators scoreless for the next three frames to help the Huskies score a 5-3 victory on April 26.North Marion (9-1, 8-0 Tri-Valley) has largely picked up where it left off in 2019, once again fielding a contender for a league championship with aspirations on a deep playoff run. The Huskies ripped off double-digit victories in their first three contests of the season and have come slightly back to earth in the latter half of April, needing all seven innings to win their past five league games.

The one blemish on the schedule came Saturday on the back half of a double header when North Marion fell 2-1 to 2A Kennedy (8-0) after beating the Philomath Warriors 11-0 earlier in the afternoon. It's a start that could hardly be expected following a leadup to the season that was anything but normal.

"I didn't know what to expect," Brack said. "I didn't know what to expect from us or from the other teams. I've just been super happy with the way we've come out of the gate. Pitching wise, defensive wise — and offensive wise we've done enough. We've had hiccups, but you've come to expect it.

"It's really a good group; they get along really well. They're fun to coach and super coachable."

If the Huskies can maintain their hold on the conference, they'll earn one of six automatic berths to the 4A Showcase tournament, which returns for spring sports following its successful implementation for soccer and volleyball in March. Two at-large teams will join the six league champions for a double-elimination quarterfinal, in a deviation from the usual 16-team, single-elimination format. Brack is excited for the new playoff system, which mirrors what is run for the basketball season, and hopes the OSAA can take away some positives from this year's unorthodox season.

PMG PHOTO: PHIL HAWKINS - North Marion's Wil VanVleck gets a fist bump from fellow sophomore Cole Boughal after scoring the game-tying run in the bottom of the first inning in the Huskies' 5-3 win over Gladstone on April 26."I'm hoping we can learn something from a playoff format," Brack said. "When you lose, especially when you get down to the quarterfinals – maybe you should get a chance to win a trophy in their trophy case for getting a consolation championship. They do it in basketball, why not do it in baseball?"

Brack also found the late start to spring sports to be a welcome change. The Huskies typically start their baseball season in mid-March — often the Monday following the end of the state basketball tournament. But this year's first game didn't start until April 12 — three weeks later than usual.

"I think starting spring sports a little bit later – do we need to start when basketball is still going? Why don't we play a little bit later?" Brack said. "Especially at our level, we have so many multi-sport athletes, lets give them a little time to take a breath. Hopefully we're going to learn something form that."

North Marion continues its league schedule this week, hosting the Molalla Indians (2-7) Wednesday and the Madras White Buffaloes (4-5) Thursday.

Down to the wire

The North Marion and Gladstone baseball teams have kept it close in recent years.


North Marion 5, Gladstone 3

North Marion 7, Gladstone 6


North Marion 1, Gladstone 0

Gladstone 3, North Marion 2

North Marion 9, Gladstone 8


North Marion 4, Gladstone 1


North Marion 6, Gladstone 3


North Marion 6, Gladstone 3

North Marion 4, Gladstone 1

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