OSAA Class 4A Championship
Sisters vs. Henley
Where: Volcanoes Stadium, Keizer
When: 5 p.m. today
Radio: 100.1-FM, 1110-AM
Admission: $8 for adults, $5 for students
More info: www.osaa.org
If an author plotted out a sports novel, this is how its climactic conclusion would be set up.
As Sisters coach Steve Hodges observes, “It’s kind of a movie ending, in a way.”
Just over a year ago, Hodges’ Outlaws, then the No. 2 seed, held a 1-0 lead early at Henley of Klamath Falls. But Henley tied the game in the fourth and scored the winning run in the fifth en route to a 2-1 victory in the semifinals of the Class 4A baseball state playoffs. The Hornets snapped Sisters’ school-record 24-game winning streak, and they went on to win the 2013 state title.
Now, Sisters is back — back in the state championship for the first time since 2002, and back against Henley.
“I’m very excited,” says Sisters senior Jardon Weems, who was on the Outlaws’ soccer team that defeated Henley in the state final in the fall. “We played them in the (baseball) semis last year, and we beat them in the state championship in soccer. I see a little bit of an east Cascades rivalry coming along.”
This is the latest installment of that rivalry. Today, at Volcanoes Stadium in Keizer, top-seeded Sisters will square off once more against No. 2 Henley for the title.
And in the eyes of some, it is a second straight state championship matchup between the two programs.
“Last year, after looking at that game and how the bracket played out (Henley went on to drub Newport 12-5 in the final), I think that really felt like the state championship,” Weems says. “I think (the Hornets) could say that also. It was a really close game, a tight game.”
“It was tough,” Sisters senior Joey Morgan says of last season’s semifinal loss. “But we moved on this year and made the plays when we needed to. We overcame that (semifinal loss) and have gotten to where we need to be.”
The state’s top two 4A teams will meet in the postseason for a second straight year — a “pleasant surprise” for Hodges.
“The state championship wasn’t a part of that picture for me at the beginning of the season,” says the eighth-year Outlaws coach, who graduated five senior starters from last year’s squad. “I thought possibly we could get a fourth (straight) league championship with the pitching that I had coming back. I was worried about our offense, putting the ball in play. It’s just a tribute to our guys and their belief. We really had some guys grow up in the last couple weeks with the playoff experience they had. And you can’t replace playoff experience.”
That is the story of Henley, which graduated just two seniors from last season’s state title team. Sisters, meanwhile, makes its third trip in school history to the big stage and looks to follow in the footsteps of its boys soccer team in posting its first-ever state title — against Henley.
“I never talk about state championships, and I’ve rarely talked about league championships,” Hodges says. “We just talk about how to grow as a team and how to understand the game better and how to get better physically and mentally. The rewards will come from that.”
The state championship will be a matchup between two of 4A’s top run-producing lineups — Henley having scored more than nine runs per game against Sisters’ nearly eight runs per contest — and the top two defensive teams — Henley allowing just under two runs per game and Sisters giving up just over two runs per contest.
More great numbers: For the third straight year, a Central Oregon team will be in a baseball state championship. Sisters is the seventh Central Oregon program ever to advance this far in the baseball postseason dating back to the OSAA’s first title contest in 1946. This will be the seventh trip to the state final for Henley, which looks to become the 12th team in state history to win back-to-back championships. Overall, Central Oregon teams are 1-6 in baseball state finals. Henley is 7-0.
“They’ve been there before,” Hodges says. “They know what it feels like. It’s just an honor to be able to play them in the big one.”
“Just being in the state championship, it’s going to be as big as it gets,” Morgan says. “Hopefully beating Henley will make it more sweet because of last year. But if we come out and play our game, we can definitely beat those guys.”
As sweet as the storyline is, as Hollywood as it would be for Sisters to avenge a bitter defeat, all that matters for the Outlaws is this ride — this trek that has Sisters walking where no Outlaw has stepped in 12 years.
“At this point, we don’t care who we play,” Hodges says. “We’re just glad we’re there.”
—Reporter: 541-383-0307, email@example.com .