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From the second Canby senior designated hitter Clayton Langdale connected with the pitch, thrown by Mountainside hurler Austin Wolfe in the seventh inning of a 0-0 stalemate in the OSAA state baseball quarterfinals, he knew it was going far.
But he certainly didn’t know it was going out of the park — or that it would prove to be the game-winner in a grueling matchup that would propel his Cougars (18-12, 11-7 Three Rivers League) to their first 6A semifinals in more than 25 years.
“It felt like nothing,” Langdale told the Current with a happy laugh afterward, describing his mindset as “locked in.” “The feeling of squaring up the ball: You don’t feel much, but it’s the best feeling in the world. When I hit it, I knew it was going far. I didn’t know it was going out, but I knew I had hit it hard.”
Langdale, who went 2-for-3 on Friday with a single in the second inning, said it had not been his goal to knock one out of the park.
“All I was going for was a base hit,” he said. “Just trying to get on base, trying to start something. And I knew if I didn’t do it, we’ve got eight other guys in the lineup that will.”
The solo shot would be the only run either team would manage in the tight, well-defended pitchers’ duel, but it would be enough, as No. 14 Canby defeated the sixth-ranked Mountainside (22-7, 14-4 Metro League) 1-0 on their home field to earn their second straight playoff upset and seventh win in a row.
“That was big-time,” head coach J.J. Stolsig said of Langdale’s homer. “He got a barrel on it and put a great swing on it. He works his butt off. That’s hard work paying right there, paying off.”
While Langdale’s incredible shot will long be remembered, the other biggest storyline of the game was no doubt the masterful performances by the team’s two starting pitchers. Senior Jason Noffsinger threw six complete innings for the Cougs, allowing only four hits and no runs.
And, though he recorded only one strikeout, he and the tireless defense behind him worked together in near-flawless precision, frustrating the Mavericks all afternoon and keeping them off-base.
“Our theme has kind of been, we get low numbers offensively but we find a way to pitch well and play good D,” Stolsig said. “That’s the recipe we had today, and it worked for us.”
The Mavs’ starter, Wolfe, threw 11 strikeouts — no doubt the most critical being the three that came in the second inning when the Cougs had managed to load the bases with no outs.
While Wolfe pitched a complete game, Canby brought in their top hurler, Joe Brauckmiller, in the seventh for the save.
“Noff was already going to come out; he was getting toward the end,” Stolsig said. “But when you have your best guy ready for 25 pitches and he says, ‘I want the ball,’ you go to him.”
Brauckmiller had exuded an air of supreme confidence as he exited the bullpen in the bottom of the seventh, telling him coaches and teammates simply, “I’m ready,” before heading to the mound.
After last week’s stunning upset over third-ranked South Medford, Canby has now completed two straight upsets over teams with better records and better seeding. For Langdale, that’s no real surprise.
“We went into the playoffs with the mindset that everything starts over,” he said. “Record doesn’t matter. Seeding doesn’t matter. It’s a whole new season.”
Langdale struggled for words as he sought to describe the feeling of jogging down the home stretch after giving his team what would prove to be a decisive lead. The Cougs’ core and heart is a talented cadre of seniors — including Langdale and his twin brother, Casey — that has played multiple sports together for years.
“All those guys, they’re all my brothers,” he said. “I was excited. There’s nothing like it. That’s why we love this game.”
Stolsig — who, just five days after earning his first playoff win in 10 years at the helm of the Canby baseball program, now has three — also spoke highly of this group’s chemistry.
“It’s fun to be around these guys every day,” he said. “I told them in the huddle, it’s one of those things I never want to end. I’d rather play a major league season of 162 games because it’s just so much fun to show up every day. These guys work, and they love each other.”
Canby will go on to face No. 7 Clackamas (26-4, 15-1 Mt. Hood Conference) on Tuesday, May 31. The Cavaliers made the semifinals after ending the 18th-seeded Lake Oswego’s own Cinderella story on Friday.
It marks Canby’s first trip to the quarterfinals since 1996, when the Cougs lost to the eventual 4A champs, Mazama High School in Klamath Falls. If they win, they’ll face a familiar foe, TRL rivals West Linn or Lakeridge, for the state title on June 4 at Volcanoes Stadium.
First pitch will be at 5 p.m. For tickets, visit osaa.org/tickets.
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