Community, Sports Zone

Pleasant Hill vying for back-to-back league baseball crowns

PLEASANT HILL – The Pleasant Hill Billies baseball team fell twice in a doubleheader against Class 4A No. 2 Marist Catholic last Friday. Despite the losses, 9-3 in game one and 8-7 in game two, the Billies proved a lot by simply competing with a contender in the Class above them.

“We’re competing, and we’re close. We’re just missing a couple hits or a couple good at bats to really get everything going for us, but this team that we have here, they’re grinders,” said Johnny Bowden, Pleasant Hill coach. “They get after it every single day, and the reality is that this is a good sign for us. We’re competing with one of the best Class 4A teams in the state. If we can compete with them, that’s a good sign for us.”

In Class 3A, the Mountain Valley Conference gets three automic playoff teams. As of now it’s a four-team race for those three spots. No. 9 La Pine sits in first at 12-3, No. 8 Sisters is in second at 9-4, No. 22 Siuslaw is in third at 8-5, and then No. 11 Pleasant Hill sits at the four spot at 7-6. The Billies went 1-2 in their series against Sisters a couple weeks ago, but still have their three-game series’ to play against La Pine and Siuslaw. Bowden believes this team has the chance to compete at the top of the league.

“I think the big thing for us is we’ve gotta take it one game at a time. If we get too far ahead of ourselves, and look too far ahead with different competitors, we’ll lose sight of what’s important,” Bowden said. “What’s important is to win the day. Win that first game or win the game that we’re playing at that moment. But I think this team can handle it. This team is good.”

That’s not to say it’s been an easy go to start the season. Last year Pleasant Hill won the conference en route to an 18-8 record. The team went into the playoffs ranked No. 6, eventually falling in the quartefinals to No. 3 Yamhill-Carlton. That team lost eight seniors, including four All-State honorees. And so Bowden had to find new leaders and a new identity for this team. Despite all of that, he’s liked how the team has handled the season so far, and how the new leaders have stepped up.

“I’m a firm believer that the pre-conference season is for figuring out who you are, and you take your bumps and bruises and get your losses in there,” Bowden said. “That group last year really bonded as a team and as a group, and that’s why they were so successful…. This year’s team is really trying to model that same exact idea.”

Bowden noted that he chats with Steve Smith, a legend who coached Pleasant Hill baseball for 25 years. According to Bowden, Smith says that, “If you go .500 in your preseason, you did something right. You have to get your mistakes exposed. It’s all part of the game, and you just build it for the end of the year.”

As the Billies roll into the thick of the conference schedule, it’ll be important for them to stay focused on their goals, one of which is to find that identity. While the team wants to emulate the success of last year’s squad, each team is different, and that means they’ll need to find a unique identity.

“I think we’re searching a little bit for that identity. I think we’re getting a lot closer to what it’s supposed to be. When you have so much fun last year, and there’s so much success, you try to adopt that same identity, but the reality is that this is a different team,” Bowden said. “I think when they come into their own and really figure out who they are as baseball players, they’re gonna be hard to stop.”



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