By Logan Brandon • Sports Editor • 

Fearsome foursome

Four Yamhill County baseball and softball teams.

Four conference champions.

Four state title contenders.

The number-one ranked Yamhill-Carlton softball, the third-rated Tiger baseball team, the fifth-ranked McMinnville baseball team and seventh-seeded Grizzly softball team all locked up league championships this week and anticipate lengthy playoff runs.

For the first time in recent memory, four county teams enter the postseason with legitimate opportunities to capture serious hardware.

With the first round of the state playoffs kicking off next week, it’s time to reflect on their journeys to the top.

Y-C Softball, 1st in 3A, 22-3 overall record, 12-0 in PacWest Conference

The Tigers recipe for success has remained a successful combination of talent and fun, according to head coach John Kuehnel. Y-C swept its conference competition, 12-0, and its closest league matchup was a 5-4 win over Blanchet Catholic April 22.

With a league title in hand, the Tigers played non-conference foes Rainier and Cascade, winning the former, 19-3, and losing the latter to the number-two ranked 4A squad, 6-1. The loss to the Cougars finally snapped Y-C’s 18-game winning streak.

Coach Kuehnel said his players always set out to claim the PacWest Conference championship, and with that feat completed, the Tigers have set their sights on the postseason race.

This season – Kuehnel’s 25th – the longtime coach implemented a new wrinkle for his players. He started a Team Ultimate Challenge – a competition for the Tigers to earn points during practices and games. At the end of each week, players and teams earn prizes for logging base hits and turning defensive plays.

“It’s been a lot of fun,” said Kuehnel. “It’s a weekly challenge with a point system. It’s kept them engaged and having fun during the year.”

With over 400 career wins, Kuehnel still looks for ways to improve his program. The squad’s success this year should be attributed to the cohesiveness of the players, he noted.

Senior Kati Slater anchors the Y-C pitching staff, and she threw a five-inning perfect game with 12 strikeouts during Wednesday’s 13-0 blowout of Scio.

Regarding the league title, Kuehnel added, “It’s an awesome thing to have. We have our league title secured and our ranking secured. We should have home games throughout the playoffs now.”

Y-C Baseball, 3rd in 3A, 17-4 overall record, 11-1 Special District 1

As last year’s Culminating Tournament runners-up, the Tigers entered the 2022 season with high expectations. But their accomplishments of the past weren’t necessarily steering them in the present.

First-year head coach and Y-C alum Jake McGraw stepped in to direct the baseball program this spring. His style of coaching – giving more autonomy to the players – has had an immediate impact on the club.

Veterans like Tiger Reimann, Wyatt Hurley, Jacob Preston, Carson Robarts and Jacob McGhehey have seized their roles and led the team to a top-three ranking. Hurley is once again a respected leader among the group, propelling the Tigers forward with both elite pitching and catching.

With wins over Amity and Scio last week, Y-C clinched its second straight conference championship. The Tigers dropped their first game in almost two months during Monday’s surprising 13-4 defeat to Blanchet Catholic.

The Tigers conclude regular season play Friday against Class 4A Banks before hosting at least two rounds of the state playoffs.

McMinnville Baseball, 5th in 6A, 25-2 overall record, 17-1 Pacific Conference

While clearly eying a grander prize, the McMinnville Grizzlies were eager to check off the first of their team goals for the 2022 season. Last Wednesday, Mac clinched its second straight Pacific Conference title and ultimately finished its league schedule with only one loss.

“This is a testament to the work our guys have put in for the past year,” said head coach Todd Peterson. “Going into this year, we knew we would have a strong club and that we could win it.”

The Grizzlies have overpowered their opponents with dynamic pitching, led by senior righthander Ky Hoskinson, who tossed the 14th perfect game in Oregon history this spring.

Senior Parker Guinn and sophomore Grayson Seehawer have formed a solid one-two punch behind Hoskinson in the rotation, while relievers like Kade Weeks, Bryan Blank and Evan Crawford are also formidable.

Mac won 17 consecutive contests prior to Wednesday’s narrow 3-2 loss to number-two rated Lakeridge. The Grizzlies enjoyed several weeks ranked as the top team in 6A, but its strength of schedule has dropped them into the top-five this month.

Snagging the league championship remains the first step in the program’s long list of expectations, Peterson noted, adding, “It’s a great way to cap off a special season. We always preach to our guys about winning the league title. These guys deserve it and I hope it motivates the younger guys.”

The Grizzlies will host a pair of postseason matches, starting next Monday and Wednesday. Playoff brackets will be solidified Saturday evening on the OSAA website.

McMinnville Softball, 7th in 6A, 21-4 overall record, 10-2 Pacific Conference

For the first time since the 2017 season, the McMinnville softball team earned a share of the Pacific Conference championship. The Grizzlies conquered Sherwood, 3-2, Wednesday to ensure a three-way split with the Bowmen and rival Newberg.

“This is really special for the girls after missing a year-and-a-half of ball. Winning league is always one of our goals. Now, we just need win in the playoffs and send the seniors out right,” noted head coach Josh Terry.

Mac’s success has been intricately linked to its powerful offense. The Grizzlies have blasted a 6A record 43 home runs and counting, with senior shortstop Brynn McManus (17 ) and sophomore pitcher Mackenzie Bekofsky (13) anchoring the dangerous lineup.

McManus is only four round trippers from tying the all-time single season record set by Marist Catholic’s Lauren Burke in 2016.

Coach Terry knows his team won’t always be able to out-hit its opponents in the postseason, which is why he felt relieved by his squad’s showing against Sherwood. In the win, the Grizzlies notched only six hits, but rode Bekofsky’s sterling pitching and clutch hits by Mya Stigall and Margo McManus to a league-clinching triumph.

“We haven’t been swinging the bats like we’re used to, but we found a way to win. I’m really proud of how we competed and finished against Sherwood,” observed Terry.

Mac’s half of the 6A bracket will include number-two Bend, number-three McNary and number-six Sheldon. The Grizzlies have wins against the Irish, as well as top-ranked opponents Jesuit, Newberg and Westview.


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