By ERIC A. HOWALD
Of the Keizertimes
If the McNary High School varsity baseball team was holding back the good stuff during its run through the Central Valley Conference, it surely picked the right time to deploy it.
The Celtics squared off with Tualatin High School Monday, May 21, and emerged with a 11-7 win in the first round of the state playoffs.
“We’ve been in close situations like that all year and we knew that pitcher, Travis Johnson, was going to be tough, but we kind of kept our heads up,” said senior D.J. Harryman. “It was kind of a vibe where we knew we were going to be all right.”
That vibe carried the team through a harrowing first inning that saw two of the Timberwolves knock two hits over the fence and take a 3-0 lead.
“When the other team hits two balls out of the park in the bottom of the first, there’s some concern, but, to the kids’ credit, they didn’t panic,” said Larry Keeker, McNary head coach.
The McNary team battled back in the second on a two-out, RBI-hit by Chris Burger that closed the gap to 3-1. Pitcher Jon Stong held Tualatin at bay on the mound in the bottom of the inning.
In the top of the third, Celt Garren Robinett belted a three-run homer that put the Celts up 4-1.
Asked whether he knew it was out of the park on contact, Robinett said, “Right away, it was an off-speed pitch on the outer corner and I took it the other way.
“It was probably one of the best feelings I’ve ever had because it gave us the lead.”
Stong continued to quiet Tualatin bats and McNary got on another scoring tear in the fourth inning racking up a 8-3 lead. The Celts notched another three runs in the top of the seventh and then Tualatin stepped up to the dish for the last chance to save its season.
“We thought we’d give Jon a chance for a complete game, and we ran him out in the seventh. He had full count on the first guy and ended up walking him and after that it was another full count on the second batter with another walk and we knew that was it,” Keeker said.
Ben Johnson stepped in for relief walking another batter and hitting the second one, but he managed to notch the first out of the inning on a come-back hit that he threw to first for the out.
“They’re fighting for their lives and we just want to get another out,” Keeker said.
Timberwolves batters managed to notch four runs before McNary skated out with the win. Harryman hit a double, a triple and had two RBIs in the outing. Connor Goff and Cody Bond chipped in doubles and Stong struck out five batters allowing three hits.
“We made plays and got the hits we needed. We’re going to ride the wave as long as we can,” Keeker said.
Given the tumultuous season the Celts led up to the playoffs, taking the win over a Tualatin team that was 16-1 in conference and against an undefeated pitcher puts wind in the sails.
“We had a rough year, but we knew we could play with anyone. Finally beating a good team gives us all the confidence we need,” Harryman said.
“I think it’s going to be hard to stop us because once we get our confidence going, it’s a totally different team,” Robinett added.
McNary played Oregon City High School past press time Wednesday, May 23, in the second round of the playoffs.