Pleasant Hill, Sports Zone

Billies pitching provides sweet revenge

PLEASANT HILL – The Pleasant Hill Billies baseball team earned sweet revenge last Friday with a 7-3 win over Brookings-Harbor, the No. 3 team in the Class 3A preseason coaches poll and the team that knocked out Pleasant Hill from the postseason in the quarterfinals last year. Did the win mean a little extra for the Billies?

“Absolutely, 100%. This is a game, when we started our early-season workouts, that we targeted as a big game for us,” Pleasant Hill coach Johnny Bowden said. “This was one that we wanted to win to show ourselves, and show everybody else, that we’re the team to beat this year. We are not a team to be trifled with.”

The Billies, ranked No. 5 in the preseason polls, was scoreless the first two innings of the game before scoring seven runs in the next two innings – including a five-run 4th inning. Four of those runs came with two outs, and two came on a line-drive double from senior catcher Hunter Allen, who finished the game with 2 hits and 4 RBI.

“It was really a mentality change. You know, a lot of times in baseball, it’s really easy to be defensive when you’re hitting – even though you’re on offense. And the flip that happened was, we went from a defensive-hitting team, and all of a sudden, we kicked into high gear,” Bowden said of the offensive surge in the middle innings. “We’re putting the pressure on; we’re changing approaches, throwing a few bunts out there. But really, it’s just the mental approach of, ‘I’m going out there to beat somebody.’”

Meanwhile, senior Caden Richardson – a 1st-team all-state pitcher last season – pitched 6 full innings and finished with 12 Ks. Richardson held Brookings-Harbor, a team that averaged 8.3 runs-per-game last season, to only 4 hits and 3 runs.

“He’s an absolute bulldog. He’s about as tough as it gets on the mound. He’s a guy that I would put against any team in the state – I don’t care what division it is,” Bowden said. “He’s just a bulldog. He pounds the zone, he’s not scared of anybody; he’ll throw inside, and he throws a whole lot of strikes.”

Caden Richardson slings one of his 103 pitches during Pleasant Hill’s 7-3 win over Brookings-Harbor.

As Bowden noted, one of Richardson’s strengths is his ability to consistently throw inside the zone – 76 of Richardon’s 103 pitches were strikes, a 74% clip. Richardson isn’t Pleasant Hill’s only outstanding pitcher, though. In fact, the Billies return every member of their pitching group from last season.

“It’s extremely rare. We are very, very deep in pitching, which is not normal. We have six starters really on our team; we have six kids who can be starters. Now it just is, where do we plug them in? And where are they going to be most effective?” Bowden said. “The pitching rotation is a pretty easy question to answer because we have so many guys that we can throw out there that are going to give us quality outings. I think for us, the big thing is that we maintain throwing strikes, staying ahead of hitters, and just when we get the lead, we bury people.”

Jon Fitzpatrick (9) and Caden Richardson celebrate after Richardson and teammate Caleb Van Ordstrand (3) both scored during Pleasant Hill’s five-run 4th inning.

The Billies opened the season last week getting ahead of, and burying, Springfield 10-2 before falling to Class 4A No. 5 Marist Catholic 11-1. Pleasant Hill travels to the Challenger Classic in Medford later this month where some of the top 3A teams will play, and the Billies host No. 8 Santiam Christian in mid-April. All part of a non-conference plan to get the team competitive.

“I really, really like to challenge our kids in the preseason. If Jesuit would play us, I would schedule them. I want the kids to have a perspective, I want them to be able to see what good baseball is, and what good competitors are,” Bowden said. “I want them to be able to show up on those days, because it’s hard. Sometimes when you’re playing a great team like Brookings, it can be anxiety-ridden and a little nerve-wracking. But getting that kind of trial run out and facing these high-quality teams that are really well-coached allows us to raise our game as well.”

Bowden and the Billies finished third in the Mountain Valley Conference last season behind Sisters and La Pine after winning the conference in 2022. In the past two seasons under Bowden, Pleasant Hill has gone 35-19 overall, 23-7 in the MVC, and made the quarterfinals both seasons.

“This is a special group. It really is. I’ve coached for a long time and been around a lot of baseball, and this is one of the more special groups I think I’ve ever been around,” Bowden said. “Their ability to rally around each other, and be a team, is pretty unique. Which, again, makes me really hopeful for this year.”



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