KEIZER — The La Grande Tigers are back on top of the Class 4A baseball world.
And they used a punishing offensive attack and a lockdown pitching effort to get there.
“It was pretty great, to be honest,” Jarett Armsrong said. “It felt like it was deserved in a way because of last year getting so close. It was a big sigh of relief for the whole team to finally get that work in and get the result you wanted.”
Nick Bornstedt and Armstrong both had three RBIs, Jace Schow outpitched both of Hidden Valley’s aces, and the Tigers (28-1 overall) rolled to a 10-1 victory Tuesday, June 7, at Volcanoes Stadium in Keizer to claim their third OSAA state title. La Grande claimed its other state titles in 2007 and 2017.
“Phenomenal. Fantastic team win,” head coach Parker McKinley said. “They were ready to go. We knew we needed to get right after their starting pitcher. Kids had some great approaches.”
Schow, who also homered in the win, tamed the high-powered Mustang offense, striking out 11 and allowing just one run on six hits. The lone run he surrendered scored on a balk in the second inning.
“That’s a really, really good lineup, a strong-hitting lineup that he pitched against,” McKinley said. “He pitched beautifully. He executed his pitchers, hit his spots.”
Schow, who noted that having the early lead helped drop his stress, said he found success in knowing his defense would make plays behind him. He pounded the strike zone and deftly mixed up his pitches, but mostly used his fastball and changeup.
“I was trying to get them to put the ball in play and throw strikes,” he said. “I was keeping them off balance by throwing my changeup and (making them hit) it to my defense.”
The Tigers’ offense, meanwhile, scored early and often against Hidden Valley aces Isaac Hill and Nate Vidlak. Hill started, but lasted just five batters, leaving with what McKinley said appeared to be an issue with his throwing arm.
“Isaac, hopefully, was not (out with) anything serious, but his arm was bothering him,” the coach said.
Hill walked the first two batters he faced, then after two strikeouts surrendered a two-out, two-run single to Bornstedt for an early 2-0 lead.
“I think that definitely set the tone,” Bornstedt said. “It was really kind of what got us going. I feel like it was a spark. The rest of the team rallied behind me after that. A credit to the first two guys that got walked, too, just to be on and be in that situation for me.”
The Tigers added single runs in the third and fourth against Vidlak on a Bornstedt RBI single and an Armstrong sacrifice fly in the fourth, then delivered the knockout blow in the fifth.
“Eventually the dam broke,” Bornstedt said. “As a team we were putting a lot of pressure on them the whole game.”
La Grande loaded the bases with one out, and Cesar Rodriguez walked to force in a run for a 5-1 lead. On the next pitch, Braden Carson hit a two-run single to center, and three pitches later, Armstrong hit a two-run double to chase Vidlak from the game and push the lead to 9-1.
“We just put everything together, didn’t let up on the gas, and I would say just tied some runs together that needed to happen,” Armstrong said of the fifth-inning barrage. “It was momentum building, one piece at a time.”
Schow iced the win with a solo home run to lead off the sixth.
“The game is so much about momentum,” McKinley said. “When you get it going in your direction, special things can happen.”