Wednesday’s playoff games

Class 5A softball

No. 16 North Bend at No. 1 Ridgeview, 4:30 p.m.: The Ravens, champions of the Intermountain Conference, host North Bend. The Bulldogs finished the regular season 11-12 overall and 7-7 in the Midwestern League this season.

Class 5A baseball

No. 15 Crook County at No. 2 Crescent Valley, 4:30 p.m.: The Cowboys, 15-11 overall and 9-6 in the Intermountain Conference, play at Crescent Valley, which finished the regular season 22-5 overall and 12-4 in the Mid-Willamette Conference.

LA PINE —

Austin McKittrick is one of only four returning starters from La Pine’s 2018 state championship team.

But the Hawks left fielder says the expectations have not changed as No. 4 seed La Pine opens the Class 3A baseball playoffs Wednesday at home against No. 13-seeded Vale.

“The feeling is not different,” McKittrick says. “We still plan on winning the state championship. That’s our goal and anything short of that is not what we want. If we come out and play our game, there’s no one we can’t beat in the state.”

The Hawks finished the regular season 15-7 overall and 7-5 in Special District 3. La Pine’s five league losses all came against Pleasant Hill and Santiam Christian, which are No. 1 and No. 3, respectively, in the OSAA’s latest rankings. The Hawks went 1-2 against Santiam Christian and 0-3 versus Pleasant Hill, which La Pine coach Bo DeForest says is similar to his 2018 state title team.

Led by pitchers Zach Hart and Stephen Parmenter, the Billies have eight seniors.

While La Pine has only two seniors this season, junior Adam Plant, a three-year starter, says the Hawks are following the model set by last year’s class.

“Our seniors led the way for us last year and we just try to play like they did, just play as a team and battle no matter what,” Plant says. “I feel like we’re one of the top teams but a little more underdog because of those seniors being gone. Confidence is still there.”

Outside of its league, La Pine swept a doubleheader against No. 9 Joseph and also defeated No. 11 Taft this season.

“A lot of people didn’t believe in us and thought this was going to be a down year,” McKittrick says. “We wanted to prove that it wasn’t going to be a down year. We wanted to prove that last year was not a fluke and that we were going to be back competing for another state championship.”

While La Pine will start the playoffs in the same position as last season, the No. 4 seed, DeForest says the Hawks play a different style of baseball from the state championship club, which was fueled by both power bats and arms.

“Hard-hit balls were doubles and triples and maybe home runs, and this year we’re relying more on a lot of base-hit type stuff,” DeForest says.

McKittrick, who hit at the bottom of La Pine’s batting order last season, is now at cleanup.

“I’m not really there for power,” McKittrick says. “I’m more there because I make contact with the ball. We have a few kids who can hit for power but mostly we’re a base-hit team.”

The Hawks, who graduated aces Jake Farnsworth and Angelo Roes, are also pitching differently, relying more on their defense instead of racking up strikeouts.

“We feel like we read swings pretty well and we adjust our defense pretty well,” DeForest says. “I let my catchers call the pitches and I adjust defense and I think we do a pretty good job of putting guys in position and getting the ball hit where we want it to get hit.”

La Pine does have a familiar last name leading its pitching staff in Jake Farnsworth’s younger brother Alex.

“I look up to my brother,” says Alex, a sophomore who played catcher and in the infield for the Hawks last year but was unable to pitch after hyperextending his right elbow at the end of basketball season. “I want to fill that spot that he left behind. It’s big shoes to fill but I’m up to the challenge. It’s continuing the legacy because we really set the bar high last year so we want to keep it going.”

Farnsworth was on the mound when La Pine defeated Santiam Christian 4-1 on April 12. He held the Eagles to three hits and one run through six innings.

“I’m up for the competition,” Farnsworth says. “Those are the starts that I want.”

Another La Pine sophomore, Bryce Coble, has a 0.82 ERA over 17 innings but has not pitched since May 2 due to irritation in his right elbow. DeForest says Jacob Wallis has stepped up in Coble’s absence.

Dylan Westbrook, a right fielder who played JV last season, and Jose Guillen, a transfer from Hawaii who starts at second base, have also filled in nicely.

“Obviously the overall goal is to be state champions but the first step is to get into the playoffs and then everyone’s got a shot,” DeForest says. “I like where we’re at. I feel like we’re in pretty good position. Last year we were No. 4 and it worked out pretty well. I’ve scouted a lot of the teams. There’s definitely some real quality teams but I don’t feel like there’s as many. We have a legitimate shot at it.”

­­— Reporter: 541-383-0307, dwiley@bendbulletin.com

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