Walk off to the quarters
Cameron Fox is whole.
With him, the McMinnville baseball team is greater than the sum of its parts.
Fox is on his third sport of the season, still feeling the bumps and bruises of the first two. The junior suffered a right shoulder injury during football season, when the Grizzlies made the OSAA Class 6A state playoffs, and aggravated it further during basketball season. Fox was unable to play in the Class 6A state basketball playoffs, when McMinnville advanced to the second round.
“Every once in a while it’ll get a little sore after practice,” “It’s pretty much almost 100 percent.”
Fox had been a designated hitter for much of the baseball team’s regular season, but Grizzlies coach Jordan Harlow began working him into the field. Fox started at left field for No. 11 McMinnville against North Salem in the second round of the Class 6A state playoffs.
While Fox’s shoulder strength is improving, his legs have remained strong; his speed is one of his best attributes on the diamond. He used that speed to great advantage Wednesday night at the McMinnville baseball field at Patton Middle School, as the Grizzlies walked off with a 1-0 victory over the No. 27 Vikings.
Fox led off the bottom of the seventh inning with his second single of the game. (He finished 2-for-2 with a walk.) McMinnville designated hitter Kyle Casey laid down a sacrifice bunt; North Salem pitcher Cameron Jolly pounced on it.
Jolly whirled toward second base to throw out Fox, the lead runner, but he overthrew Vikings shortstop Dexter Alik. Fox ran safely to third base.
“While I was running to second, I saw the shortstop freak out a little bit and try to jump for the ball,” Fox said.
As the throw came in from center field, Casey was on his way toward second base but stopped at the halfway point.
“At first I was kind of ticked because I thought it was a bad base-running mistake,” Harlow said. “The thing that Kyle did a great job of is, once he knew he was kind of picked, he knew he needed to stay in the pickle. That allowed Cameron to get a good read at third.”
“I saw Kyle between second and first with a scared look on his face and I thought, ‘Oh no. Something’s going to go down,’” Fox said. “When the third baseman threw over to the first baseman, he turned his shoulders and that’s when I decided to go for it.”
As soon as the home-plate umpire signaled safe, the Grizzlies erupted from the dugout and mobbed Fox at home plate as the home fans cheered.
“Things are just going my way, I guess,” Fox said. “Let’s try and keep it that way.”
Save for the only error of the baseball game, Jolly, a sophomore, effectively stifled the Grizzlies’ offense. He allowed six hits, including two to Fox and two to Gage Gubrud (who doubled as part of a 2-for-2 day). Jolly walked two batters, struck out two others and didn’t allow a runner to advance past second base before the seventh inning.
“He was outstanding,” Harlow said. “We just told the guys, we’ve just got to stay on it, stay on it. That guy pitched well enough to win; we just kind of caught a break.”
Jolly’s and North Salem’s (13-16, 8-7 Central Valley Conference) problem was that Mac starter Kade Mechals had a better outing. The sophomore struck out nine batters, walked one and allowed three hits in the 80-pitch outing.
“Kade was outstanding,” “He’s a gamer. He’s competitive. We knew from the third, fourth inning on, he’s got this thing on lockdown. We need to get him a run to put it away.”
McMinnville and Tualatin split two games in a Class 6A Pacific Conference series this season, but the 6A playoffs have allowed for a rubber match.
The Grizzlies (21-7) will throw the first pitch against the Timberwolves at 4:30 p.m. today for the right to advance to the 6A semifinals.
McMinnville 5, Sprague 2
Cameron Fox hit a two-run inside-the-park home run and finished Monday with three RBI as the Grizzlies defeated the Olympians in the first round of the Class 6A state playoffs at the McMinnville baseball field at Patton Middle School.
Zach Rhoads, Kade Mechals and Jacob Bannister each had hits for the Grizzlies.
Riley McAnally earned the win on the mound for McMinnville, allowing seven hits and two runs in five innings pitched. Wyatt Smith threw two perfect innings to close the game for the Grizzlies.