For the second straight year, Philomath High School not only repeated as the Oregon West Conference champions but swept the league’s postseason awards.
The Warriors took all three special awards with senior shortstop Hannah Williams earning Player of the Year honors, sophomore Kamden Combs repeating as Pitcher of the Year and head coach Erik Remington taking Coach of the Year.
Those who follow softball are well aware of the team’s emergence last year to win its first conference title since 1984. The Warriors followed up with a repeat championship this spring and moved past the first round of the Class 4A playoffs. Henley, the eventual state runner-up, eliminated Philomath in the quarterfinals.
“This year has meant more than anything because although the playoff run didn’t go as far as we wanted, we had outreach from the rest of the state,” Remington said. “La Grande, Junction City, Sweet Home, Henley — those coaches speak very highly of our program.”
Remington made a statement on the program’s approach to each season.
“We want to get into late May,” he said. “That’s our new foundational model.”
The talent on Philomath’s roster this past season could be seen up and down the lineup and Oregon West coaches agreed to place four on the first team. In addition to Williams and Combs, the Warriors also saw senior third baseman Amie Russell and sophomore center fielder Kaili Saathoff with first-team recognition.
Senior outfielder Riley Weaver earned a spot on the second team. Freshman catcher Reagan Larson was included as an honorable mention pick.
Williams was a bit surprised at the conference honor. She was a unanimous choice among coaches.
“I thought it was so awesome,” she said. “I was not expecting it at all. It makes me feel like my work has paid off.”
Williams played outfield and some third base during her freshman year before settling in at shortstop as a sophomore. She also picked up valuable experience and advanced her skills through summer league and travel teams, which she’s been involved with since her early middle school years.
With the Warriors, she’s been a big part of the program’s emergence as a Class 4A softball power.
“I think it was amazing; it felt really good and made me proud to play with the program,” Williams said. “It was really nice that we were able as coach said to break the stigma around Philomath softball and I’m glad I got to be a part of that.”
The numbers speak for themselves. Williams finished with a .419 batting average, five home runs and 41 runs scored. In the field, she had a .929 fielding percentage.
Williams developed into a team leader, primarily through her play on the field.
“She’s not very vocal; she’s a very lead-by-example kid,” Remington said. “She was my first freshman that I lettered and so that sits near and dear to my heart. She knows what it takes to play at that level and exceeded any of my expectations.”
Combs had a few more challenges during her sophomore campaign with an illness bothering her much of the spring.
“She came in as a freshman and absolutely dominated so I was a little nervous going into it,” Remington said in reference to the sophomore “slump” that some players often experience. “But she performed well despite the circumstances. I’d say for 90 percent of the season, she was sick.”
Combs pitched in 21 of the team’s 29 games and finished with a 16-7 record and a 4.17 earned run average with 120 strikeouts in 129-1/3 innings. She also produced at the plate with a .346 batting average.
Remington mentioned that Russell could’ve been in the running for Player of the Year and he wasn’t kidding. Russell finished with a .454 batting average, .750 slugging percentage, seven home runs and 40 RBIs — all team highs.
“It was very impressive watching her play,” Remington said. “Like in batting practice, toward the end of the season, the PYAC kids would line up to watch her hit.”
Russell was one of the team’s vocal leaders while manning the hot corner.
“She was very solid defensively and another one who will be hard to replace,” Remington said.
Saathoff covered a lot of space in center field and was a tough out at the plate. She finished with a .447 batting average and had a team-high three triples. She was also patient at the plate and worked a team-best 15 walks to finish with a .536 on-base percentage.
“I’m very fortunate as a coach to have her for another two years,” Remington said. “We would take live batting practice every day and she’s the one outfielder who goes full speed out there. It shows in the game when you're making a diving catch against Newport and those in-the-gap catches. She’s a very gifted athlete, very quick.”
Overall, Remington said there were no surprises with the all-conference selections.
“I really think it’s exactly as I would’ve penciled it in at the beginning of the year,” Remington said. “That’s pretty much on par for what I’d put in there. Even with pitcher of the year and player of the year. And if not Hannah, it would’ve been Amie Russell.”
Weaver transitioned from second base to right field during the season and had a .268 batting average. Larson played all 29 games at catcher and owned a dangerous bat with a .373 average.
As for Williams, she’s looking forward to continuing softball at the collegiate level.
“I decided to play at Pacific University next year and I’m really excited,” Williams said Friday after wrapping up a practice with her club team.
All-Oregon West Team
Pitcher of the Year: Kamden Combs, Philomath
Player of the Year: Hannah Williams, Philomath
Coach of the Year: Erik Remington, Philomath
Pitcher: Kamden Combs, So., Philomath
Pitcher: Savannah Hutchins, So., Sweet Home
Catcher: Kalea Blodgett, So., Newport
Infield: Camryn Boyles, Jr., Cascade
Infield: Hannah Williams, Sr., Philomath
Infield: Amie Russell, Sr., Philomath
Infield: Sydney Maurer, Jr., Stayton
Infield: Sunhee Bitter, Sr., Sweet Home
Outfield: Crystal Campbell, Fr., Cascade
Outfield: Kaili Saathoff, So., Philomath
Outfield: Jade Beaumont, So., Stayton
Outfield: Marissa Kurtz, Sr., Sweet Home
Utility: Alysha Sims, Jr., Stayton
Pitcher: Mackenzie Dysinger, So., Cascade
Pitcher: Hattie Imbler-Bremner, So., Newport
Catcher: Graci Zanona, So., Sweet Home
Infield: Bailey Dysinger, Sr., Cascade
Infield: Erika Schones, So., Newport
Infield: Megan Wagner, Sr., Newport
Infield: Ashtyn Walker, Jr., Sweet Home
Outfield: Abby Jeppsen, Fr., Cascade
Outfield: Carlee Murray, Fr., Newport
Outfield: Riley Weaver, Sr., Philomath
Outfield: Savannah Hutchins, So., Sweet Home
Outfield: Jasmine Navarro, Sr., Woodburn
Utility: Alexis Bales, So., Cascade
Pitcher: Kelsie Walker, Sr., Stayton
Pitcher: Ashtyn Walker, Jr., Sweet Home
Catcher: Madison Walliman, So., Cascade
Catcher: Reagan Larson, Fr., Philomath
Catcher: Sarah VanHyning, Sr., Stayton
Infield: Keely Malloy, Sr., Sisters
Infield: Cedella Ritchie, So., Stayton
Infield: Alexis Jacabucci, Sr., Woodburn
Outfield: Kaleigh Martinez, Sr., Newport
Outfield: Sydney Maurer, Sr., Sweet Home