The season may have been a struggle, but McNary baseball certainly looks to be hitting its stride at the right time.
After winning the final three games of the regular season, the No. 25 ranked Celtics (8-16-1) survived a late surge to hold on to upset the No. 8 Lincoln Cardinals 5-4 in the first round of the OSAA 6A Baseball State Championship tournament on Monday.
McNary jumped out early to a 4-0 lead, scoring two in the first and two more in the third inning.
Anthony Cepeda tripled with one out in the top of the first, the first of three hits on the day for the senior.
Two batters later, Cepeda scored on a groundout from Cooper Cripe, as Jake Allen advanced to second, and scored on a line drive single from Jordan Araia on the next at-bat.
In the third inning it was again Cepeda that got things started for the Celtics, with a leadoff single this time.
A balk from Lincoln pitcher Alex Dexter, his second of the day, advanced Cepeda to second, and he then stole third. An infield error on a ground ball from Jake Allen scored Cepeda. Jake would score on a sacrifice fly from his brother Ben to make it a 4-0 McNary lead.
Lincoln responded in the bottom half of the inning with a pair of two-out doubles and a single to cut the McNary lead in half and make it a 4-2 game.
McNary added an insurance run in the fifth inning that would prove necessary.
Once again Cepeda opened up the inning for the Celtics, getting on with a single and advancing to second on a groundout from Jake Allen. A double from Cripe brought Cepeda around to increase the lead to three runs.
But in the bottom of the inning, things looked like they might turn in favor of the Cardinals.
With two outs, a walk from McNary starting pitcher Carter Hawley loaded the bases. McNary head coach Larry Keeker chose to pull Hawley, a junior and first team all-CVC selection, after just 74 pitches with the bases loaded in a three-run game, bringing in Andrew Hammond.
Hammond, also a junior and a second team all-CVC selection, hit the first two Lincoln batters he faced, bringing in two runs, before he settled and retired the next six batters he faced.
McNary has a familiar foe in Wednesday’s second round against South Salem. The Celtics were 0-3 against the Saxons this year by a combined score of 27-5. But the Celtics are 7-3 since being swept by the Saxons, and are healthier than they have been all season.
The second round matchup is Wednesday, at Willamette University’s Spec Keene Stadium. First pitch is scheduled for 5 p.m.