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Pioneers Take State

The Sandy baseball team defeats Hood River Valley to win the program's first-ever state championship


by: SANDY POST: PARKER LEE - Sandy players hold the 5A trophy high after knocking off Hood River 8-3 in Saturdays championship game. SALEM — One year ago, most of the 17 players on this season’s Sandy baseball team screamed their lungs out in Corvallis as they witnessed the school’s softball team win the state championship. Among them was Bryce Tilton, fully invested with a red “S” painted on his chest. He and his teammates were thrilled for their friends and classmates on the softball team, but they couldn’t help but wonder what it would feel like to win a title themselves.

They don’t wonder anymore.

The Pioneers defeated Hood River Valley 8-3 in Saturday’s Class 5A championship game at Volcanoes Stadium to win their first-ever baseball state title.

“This is the greatest feeling in the world,” Tilton said. “I don’t even know how to describe it. It’s unbelievable.”

Sandy’s Cinderella playoff run – which culminated with the team hoisting the championship trophy – capped one of the biggest turnarounds the state of Oregon has seen in a long time.

Coming into the season, Sandy was nowhere on anyone’s radar. The Pioneers lost several contributors from the 2013 squad, and they had to replace their coach, Garet Luebbert. They only had a few returning players who had ever stepped foot on a varsity baseball field, and that inexperience was apparent early on. Sandy lost eight of its first 12 games. Even qualifying for the playoffs seemed like a long shot.

Then something changed. Almost overnight, the Pioneers gelled together and became a cohesive unit. They no longer cared about what their batting averages were or who had the most RBIs. They only cared about helping the team win, and the victories flooded in immediately.

“At the beginning, everybody was all about ‘me, me, me,’” Sandy pitcher Carson Dwyre said. “We finally realized we had to bond together to win.”

After the 4-8 start, Sandy rolled off 13 straight wins to end the regular season and no team was hotter going into the playoffs. As the No. 9 seed, Sandy eliminated Madison, Marist and defending champion Sherwood before knocking off Hood River in the title game.

“They grew up fast,” Sandy coach Rick Martin said. “We demanded a lot from them, but they worked hard and did everything we asked of them. Luebbert left us in a good place, and he deserves a lot of credit for this. We’re not just a flash in the pan, and we have a lot to look forward to.”