SISTERS — Joey Morgan recalled that last pitch, how he reared back and possibly overthrew that fastball.
But with the Sisters faithful roaring on Tuesday, and with Tristan Wampole swinging through the pitch, Morgan’s eighth and final strikeout sent the Outlaws to a 7-2 victory over North Marion in the semifinals of the Class 4A baseball state playoffs — advancing Sisters to its third state final in school history and first since 2002.
“In those situations, it can be tough to throw strikes,” said Morgan, who went all seven innings and scattered six hits for the Outlaws. “Sometimes you can overthrow. But I’d say that was one of the hardest (pitches) I’ve thrown.”
The victory sets up a 4A championship between top-seeded Sisters against No. 2 Henley of Klamath Falls — a rematch of a semifinal game last season that Henley won 2-1 on its way to the state title.
“Winning league (all) four years is a great feeling,” said Sisters’ Jardon Weems, who went 3 for 3 and drove in a run. “We have our rivalries, and it’s nice to come out and show how we can do business in our league.
“But going against the best teams in the state and showing that we can compete, and making it down to the final two, is such an amazing feeling,” Weems continued. “This shows that all our work throughout these last four years have paid off. We’re one of the best teams, and we can compete here.”
Sisters (25-4) scored in each of the first four innings to quickly jump in front. Morgan and Cody Kreminski each had run-scoring singles for the Outlaws in the third inning, and Jonathan Luz scored in the fourth on a Morgan sacrifice fly to give Sisters a 5-0 lead.
The Huskies (22-8) from Aurora, the Tri-Valley Conference champs, tallied a pair of unearned runs with two outs in the top of the fifth to narrow the gap. But Morgan’s two-run single in the home half of the sixth all but sealed the victory, Sisters’ 20th straight against 4A opponents this season.
“The mindset was to think about today,” Weems said. “A lot of people get carried away in these types of games. They start thinking, ‘Oh, Saturday (the day of the state final). If we win we’re going to play this team or this team.’ But our coaches, our leaders really focused on today, and today only. We’ve got to win this to keep going.”
Morgan finished 2 for 3 at the plate with four RBIs for the Outlaws, Alec Gannon was 2 for 3 with a run-scoring single, and Ben Larson went 2 for 3 with a run scored.
For North Marion, Kyle Williamson was 2 for 4, while Brock Breshears, Nat Barrell, Colin Barrow and Shane McKillip each recorded a hit.
The win gives Sisters a shot at its first state baseball title.
For Outlaws coach Steve Hodges, and possibly the entire Sisters squad, Tuesday’s victory comes with excitement and relief.
“When you’ve been this close to the dance a couple times in the last few years ... that makes you want to get there all the more,” Hodges said, referring to the three straight years Sisters advanced to at least the quarterfinal round. “I can’t honestly say that I thought we’d get this far with that young of a ballclub, with two seniors in the starting lineup. I’m so pleasantly surprised of the development and the growth of this team.”
Sisters’ title against Henley is 5 p.m. Saturday at Volcanoes Stadium in Keizer.
“This is awesome,” Morgan said. “We came so close last year in the semis and ended up losing that game 2-1. To have it in your grasp like that and to lose it, that really hurts. So to finally get it, I’m so stoked.”
—Reporter: 541-383-0307, email@example.com .