Philomath High School's starting lineup earned all-Oregon West Conference honors with three players on the first team, three more on the second team and the final three as honorable mention.
Seniors Brooks Stearns and Michael Slater, and junior Dylan Bennett, were given first-team recognition.
Behind the plate and in the batter’s box, Stearns could’ve arguably been in serious contention for Player of the Year. Also a first-team all-state choice, Stearns hit .506 with a school-record 17 doubles, 39 RBIs and 39 runs scored.
“In my estimation, I thought he was the No. 2 player in the league behind (Jacob) Dobmeier, the pitcher out of Newport, just because Brooks brings it on both sides of the ball,” PHS coach Levi Webber said. “Catcher is by far the most demanding position on the field, not just physically but mentally and what it takes to be a leader.”
Beyond those statistics, Stearns held great value because of his leadership abilities.
“At times, we weren’t the most polished on the bump and he did a good job of helping some young guys through some rough spots and leading some older guys,” Webber said. “It’s nice when you’re a pitcher and you’ve got a guy behind the plate that’s going to keep pretty much everything in front of him.”
One of the most visible contributions from Stearns seemed to come in clutch-hitting situations. When Philomath needed to drive in runs or set up opportunities, Stearns carried a big bat.
“He just all-around and offensively made us go,” Webber said. “(He had) big hits in big spots — two-run double in the win over Baker and two-run homer down at Henley to get things going. He provided a spark for us all season long.”
Stearns and Slater were both chosen to represent Philomath in the Oregon 4A All-Star Series coming later this month at North Marion.
Slater, who plays second base, emerged as a major contributor on both offense and defense over the past two seasons.
"He kinda solidified a spot for us at second base when we knew we were going to need somebody to take over last year and he continued in that role this year," Webber said. "He was just outstanding for us all year long over at second."
As a junior, Slater had been in the lead-off spot in the batting order, but Webber opted to move him down a few spots. He responded with a modern-day school-record 50 hits. Slater finished with a team-high .508 batting average in conference games and was at .500 overall.
"We moved down into the middle of the lineup just because we had some different options we could go with in the lead-off hole but he did a good job behind Brooks," Webber said. "He was well-deserving of first-team all-league honors."
In all of Class 4A, Slater was named to the all-state second team.
"It was a really good year for Mike and he really developed into a good baseball player for us," Webber said.
Bennett hit in the 4-hole this past season and quietly put together an impressive campaign. Not only did he produce at the plate with a .315 batting average, .362 in league games, but he learned to play very well in left field.
“He had some big games for us, big at-bats, big hits, big RBIs and was pretty consistent,” Webber said. “He did a good job there but then also he played a really solid outfield for us in left, especially after not really having played in the outfield before.”
Webber remembered Bennett struggling out in left in the season opener at Hidden Valley.
“He picked it up pretty quick and once he realized what his role was going to be, he took hold of it and grasped it and filled a spot that we needed,” Webber said. “After that first game, he was as solid as we had out there. ... He had a good year all-around both offensively and defensively for us.”
Bennett was an honorable mention pick for the all-state team.
Senior pitcher Brandn Vogler, junior pitcher Brian McClelland and senior center fielder Calvin Snuggerud were included on the Oregon West’s second team.
Vogler had a 5-0 record and 3.84 ERA with one save and 41 strikeouts in 34-2/3 innings this season. McClelland had a 5-1 record with a 4.53 ERA and a team-high 52 strikeouts in 34 innings. Snuggerud hit .317 overall, .333 in conference games.
Honorable mention picks from Philomath included freshman shortstop Cameron Ordway, senior third baseman Marshall Brattain and sophomore right fielder Adam Hernandez.
Ordway hit .352 in league games, .309 overall while filling an important defensive need at shortstop. Brattain finished with a .273 average while splitting time between third and pitcher. He threw 42-2/3 innings and had a 3.94 ERA. Hernandez played right and also pitched and had a .350 batting average to go with a 4.77 ERA in 29-1/3 innings.
Philomath finished the season with an 18-11 record, No. 10 ranking and moved past the first round of the 4A playoffs. Webber, who just wrapped up his 10th year as head coach, said the Warriors exceeded initial expectations.
“I think this was the most overachieving team that we’ve had since I’ve been here,” Webber said. “We had a lot of question marks coming into this season. ... Honestly, I wasn’t sure how the season was going to go. If you’d told me we’d win 10 games this year, I’d probably be, ‘OK, I can see that,’ and we ended up winning 18.”
Philomath’s D1 team last summer, which essentially was the same ballclub minus Ordway, won just five games.
“They found ways all season long to get better, which as a coach is all you can ask for,” Webber said. “To get to the quarterfinals with the team that we had ... I was extremely proud of what they did and how they competed and where we finished up.”
Newport’s Dobmeier earned Pitcher of the Year while Sweet Home senior Colton Smith won the Player of the Year honor. The Coach of the Year distinction went to Taylor Plesha of the conference-title Newport squad.
All-Oregon West Team
Pitcher of the Year: Jacob Dobmeier, Newport
Player of the Year: Colton Smith, Sweet Home
Coach of the Year: Taylor Plesha, Newport
Pitcher: Jacob Dobmeier, Sr., Newport
Pitcher: Colton Smith, Sr., Sweet Home
Infield: Michael Slater, Sr., Philomath
Infield: Ryan Torres, Sr., Newport
Infield: Nate Virtue, Sr., Sweet Home
Infield: Jose Ortiz, Jr., Woodburn
First base: Cole Braxling, Sr., Newport
Catcher: Brooks Stearns, Sr., Philomath
Catcher: Kaden Bruns, Fr., Newport
Outfield: Jacob Riley, Sr., Newport
Outfield: Kyle McAlister, Sr., Cascade
Outfield: Dylan Bennett, Jr., Philomath
Pitcher: Brandn Vogler, Sr., Philomath
Pitcher: Brian McClelland, Jr., Philomath
Infield: Taylor Fendall, Jr., Sisters
Infield: Mitchell Johnson, So., Newport
Infield: Aiden Tyler, So., Sweet Home
Infield: Grayson Reeder, So., Cascade
Infield: Zach Luttmer, Jr., Sweet Home
First base: Tommy McGuire, Jr., Cascade
Catcher: Hunter Spor, So., Sisters
Catcher: Travis Thorpe, Jr., Sweet Home
Outfield: Calvin Snuggerud, Sr., Philomath
Outfield: Gavin Nichols, Jr., Newport
Outfield: Jon Fritz, Fr., Newport
Outfield: Donovan Stanley, Sr., Stayton
Best of the Rest: Caleb Boyles, Fr., Cascade
Pitcher: Jared Mitchell, Jr., Stayton
Pitcher: Addison Galen, Sr., Newport
Pitcher: Garret Vohs, So., Sisters
Pitcher: Reese Miller, Jr., Woodburn
Pitcher: Dillon Tucker, So., Sisters
Infield: Danner Salisbury, So., Stayton
Infield: Cameron Ordway, Fr., Philomath
Infield: Zachary Zanona, Jr., Sweet Home
Infield: Tyler Biddinger, Jr., Newport
Infield: Will Ramos, Fr., Cascade
Infield: Marshall Brattain, Sr., Philomath
1st Base: Tannner Manning, Fr., Stayton
Catcher: Jake Whisman, Sr., Cascade
Catcher: Tanner Goodman, Sr., Stayton
Outfield: Chance Tobiasson, So., Cascade
Outfield: Adam Hernandez, So., Philomath