KEIZER — Despite finishing third in its league, La Pine entered the playoffs confident.
On Friday, the Hawks showed why as they defeated Warrenton 8-1 at Volcanoes Stadium to win their second straight Class 3A baseball state championship.
“We just kept working and kept fighting, we believed, and I think once you start winning these kind of games, it feeds itself,” La Pine coach Bo DeForest said.
The Hawks grew even more confident after coming back to defeat No. 1 Pleasant Hill in the semifinals.
“Last game was a big one,” said La Pine junior Adam Plant of Tuesday’s 8-7 win at Pleasant Hill, which had beaten the Hawks in all three of their regular-season Special District 3 meetings.
“Coming out of Pleasant Hill with a win, we thought we could do anything. As soon as we beat Pleasant Hill we knew we could win it (the state title).”
Plant pitched all seven innings on a toasty evening to earn the victory for La Pine. He allowed just an unearned run and recorded nine strikeouts.
“I’ll remember it for the rest of my life, being the starting pitcher and being able to go all the way is truly amazing and my teammates, I wouldn’t be able to do it without them,” Plant said.
The Hawks began to take control in the bottom of the second. After singling to lead off the inning, Austin McKittrick scored the first run of the game when Isaac Bright was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded. Plant then singled to drive in Oscar Steffens and Dylan Westbrook. Bright put La Pine up 4-0, scoring on a Warrenton fielding misplay — one of the Warriors’ five errors for the game.
“As soon as we got that four-run cushion there, it just gave me a lot of confidence and the ability to do what I wanted,” said Plant, who needed 105 of the 110 pitches allowed by OSAA rules to get through the seven innings.
“He was fantastic,” DeForest said of Plant’s performance. “He kept the ball down, located well, kept them off balance and did a great job. That’s why he started in the championship game.”
The Hawks added to their lead in the third inning when Teagen DeForest singled down the left-field line to bring home Westbrook and McKittrick.
Bo DeForest said he expected Warrenton to rally, but the Warriors scored their only run on a La Pine error in the fourth inning.
“We needed to stay the course and not do anything silly,” DeForest said. “There were a couple of times where I thought we put ourselves in harm’s way when we had a chance to put nails in the coffin. I kind of thought we got a little bit careless at times and I wanted to make sure that we put an end to that and just play good, fundamentally sound ball and don’t do anything to help them out.”
The Hawks scored their final two runs in the fifth inning on a Bright single up the middle that drove in Steffens and Westbrook.
While Plant, the Hawks’ leadoff hitter, and McKittrick, the cleanup hitter, were both 2-for-4 at the plate, La Pine also got hits from the lower end of the batting order. Bright, who hit eighth, had three RBIs, and DeForest, who batted seventh, drove in two runs.
“I think this team is really strong from top to bottom and how we produce runs at the bottom of the lineup,” Bo DeForest said. “It’s just a good team.”
La Pine’s state title is only the fourth won by a Central Oregon team since 1946, when the OSAA began holding baseball championship games.
“I’m just kind of in a bit of a fog I guess,” Bo DeForest said. “I don’t know if it’s the heat or being on edge the whole time expecting a big rally from them. It was a little bit lackluster but I’m still incredibly proud of the team and excited for them.”
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