KLAMATH FALLS, Ore. — At the end of the 2011 high school baseball season, there was a Skyline Conference team that finished fourth in the league, but got hot late, eventually making it to the OSAA 4A Baseball State Championships title game.
Consider this deja vu.
The Henley Hornets used a two-run sixth inning to gain their first lead of the game, beating the Klamath Union Pelicans 2-1 and advancing to the semifinals of the state playoffs on Tuesday.
Last season, the North Valley Knights won their final two league games after a four-game losing streak saw them place fourth in the Skyline Conference with a 7-8 record. Entering the play-in round as the No. 4 seed, North Valley won the next six games, including three against teams ranked No. 8 or higher in the state, to make the state championship game.
It appears Henley liked that formula, as this year’s Skyline No. 4 seed has won six of its last seven games, including wins over No. 7 South Umpqua and No. 4 Philomath.
Henley led off the sixth with a Cody Dykstra single. He advanced to second when Drew Seater reached on KU’s only error of the game. After a double steal, Paxton Kuhlman hit a single to left field to score the tying and go-ahead runs from third and second, giving Henley a 2-1 lead entering the bottom of the sixth.
Audio: Ben Fleming/960 the Sports Legend
After each team went scoreless in their next half innings, Klamath Union batted in the bottom of the seventh, still trailing 2-1. Pinch hitting for Daniel Bocchi, Nick Bell battled to a lead-off walk. Henley swapped starting pitcher Jon Guzman with Jesse Hilyard. Bell was replaced by Bocchi on the base paths, who advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt by senior Justin Willhite. Chris McGahan, who was 4-for-4 against KU’s opening round opponent Elmira, flied out to right for the team’s second out.
Jack Bell registered his first hit to right field, but Bocchi was held at third base. Much like Nick Bell, Kody Kuhlman worked hard to draw a walk, giving KU the bases loaded with two outs. After a 1-1 count to Marcus Paschal, Hilyard signaled to his infield and immediately tried a pick off move, getting Kody Kuhlman off the base between first and second.
From third, Bocchi raced toward home. Hilyard threw to home and Josh Overstreet applied a no-doubt tag on Bocchi to end the game.
Audio: Ryan Goff/960 the Sports Legend
Klamath Union stranded nine base runners. Henley (14-13) overcame five errors and not having but a base runner through five innings. The Hornets’ outfielders also made some tough, diving plays in the gusting winds at Leo J. Bocchi Field.
Audio: Jon Guzman following the game
Kody Kuhlman suffered just his third loss in 10 starts this year, finishing his senior campaign 10-3. He only threw 80 pitches, three times throwing less than 10 in an inning. His longest stint was 18 pitches in the sixth.
Guzman picked up the victory in six innings, striking out four batters, allowing one unearned run and walking two. Hilyard earned the save giving up only one hit, walking one.
Audio: Jesse Hilyard following the game
Paxton Kuhlman, who was batting against his cousin Kody, was 1-for-3 with the two RBI. Dykstra had the only other hit for Henley.
KU had Paschal’s RBI single in the first, back-to-back to base hits by Bocchi and Willhite in the second and Jack Bell’s single in the seventh for its only four hits.
Henley moves on to host Hidden Valley in an all-Skyline semifinal Tuesday. The Hornets get to be the home team, as in the semifinal round, the OSAA grants the home game to the team with the least amount throughout the playoffs. Henley has won twice on the road, while Hidden Valley (16-6) beat Molalla 14-1 at home Friday. Hidden Valley won two of the three regular season games against the Hornets.
Henley head coach Tim Cleland following the game
Klamath Union won its first league championship in baseball since 1990, but end the year 19-7. Seniors Mark Owings, Donavin Weiser, McGahan, Willhite, Bocchi and Kody Kuhlman played their last game as a Pelican.
Box Score – OSAA 4A Baseball State Championships – Quarterfinals – Henley 2, Klamath Union 1