Huskies place third in inaugural baseball playoff format
The North Marion baseball team may have fallen short of their ultimate prize this year, but the 2021 Huskies can walk away claiming an accomplishment never before earned in the history of Oregon baseball — a third place trophy.
North Marion concluded their shortened season on May 22 with a 13-6 victory over Banks to place third in the inaugural 4A baseball showcase tournament, an eight-team double-elimination bracket that took the place of the cancelled OSAA state championship playoff this year.
"It makes it something special for the seniors, because they walk out of here knowing they played in the first third-place game ever," North Marion head coach Randy Brack said.
Brack was a proponent of the new format in the middle of the season, looking at it as an improvement over the traditional one-and-done elimination model the OSAA runs for baseball and softball. The OSAA uses a double-elimination bracket in basketball and volleyball, while baseball and softball has always been single-elimination. Following the conclusion of the 4A showcase, Brack said the concensus among participating coaches was that the new model should be the norm moving forward.
"If you talk to the coaches that were involved in it, and you talk to the coaches that came to watch, they all think that's the way it should be," Brack said. "With that being said, unfortunately we don't get to make those decisions."
Perhaps no 4A team in the state would benefit from a double-elimination tournament more than North Marion, which has lost 11 semifinal games following the program's lone championship appearance and victory in 1971. That includes the Huskies' 11-3 loss to eventual state champion Hidden Valley on May 19.
"You could walk out of there with a trophy I think we've got 10 semifinal trophies in the trophy case," Brack said. "Those are great, and that's a great accomplishment, but those say semifinals and this says third place."
If not for the new format, that loss to the Mustangs would have been the finel game for the team's four seniors — Avery Coulombe, Gordon Christenson, Joe Rhodes and Raul Marquez. Instead, the Huskies got to finish their high school careers with a memorable victory.
Christenson blasted two home runs in the win over Banks — one inside the park and the other over the fence — while sophomore phenom Rex DeAngelis added a dinger of his own in the seventh inning to put the cap on a 13-4 season.
"I wasn't sure how we'd react," Brack said. "I wasn't sure about continuing to play after you lost, because I hadn't done that before. They played to win is what they did."
The North Marion coach said it felt like an unusually long season, despite the compressed schedule and fewer games. Due to the delayed schedule, the Huskies were able to take the field in the fall and get some practice in before the state began shutting down in November, only to be back on the field in December and January.
"It was kind of like a year-long practice, get going, stop, get going, stop," Brack said. "Then you cram in 17 games we played in basically six weeks. With that being said, credit to the kids, because they were enthused about everything. It was a blessing to be able to get out there (and play)."
Following the conclusion of the season, the Huskies scooped up a number of all-conference awards, including seven First Team selections and a sweep of the top awards by Brack, who earned Coach of the Year, and DeAngelis, who was named Tri-Valley Player of the Year.
The North Marion sophomore moved to Oregon with his family several years ago and missed his freshman season, only to storm onto the scene as a sophomore and steal the show.
"He's the best sophomore hitter I've ever had," Brack said, which is saying something for a coach who has seen MLB talent walk through the program in fomer Husky Kory Casto.
"Casto was pretty good, but Casto didn't have the size that Rex had as a sophomore," he continued. "He's got some things he needs to work on, and he knows that and needs to get better — it'll be fun to watch how he progresses over the next year."
2021 Tri-Valley All-Conference Awards
Player of the Year
Coach of the Year
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