Baker’s softball season has seen its share of big innings, and the Bulldogs had their most important inning of the season to take a 14-13 win over Philomath in a thrilling Class 4A play-in game under the lights on Friday, May 20, at the Baker Sports Complex.

Baker scored 11 of its 14 runs in the bottom of the fifth, then held off a last-inning rally from the Warriors.

The Bulldogs (9-13 overall) advanced to the first round of the playoffs for the first time since 2018. They will travel to Eugene to take on top-ranked Marist Catholic Wednesday, May 25 at 5 p.m.

The Spartans are 22-3 on the season and went 15-0 in league play.

“I am so proud of how hard they fought for this win,” Baker coach Sonny Gulick said about the win over Philomath. “I look forward to our next opportunity at Marist.”

After Baker’s offensive explosion in the fifth turned an 8-3 deficit into a 14-8 lead, the Bulldogs had to hold on as Philomath rallied in the top of the seventh.

The Warriors scored five runs to cut the lead to 14-13, and had a runner on first with one out, but Baker pitcher Kaycee Cuzick, who threw a complete game, struck out the final two batters to preserve the win.

“It is hard to close out teams in the playoffs and the nerves got to us a bit,” Gulick said. “We found a way to finish them off. Cuzick and (Kaci) Anderson were great pitching and catching.”

Cuzick struck out 13 batters and had just two walks.

Both teams started strong, with Philomath (10-14 overall) scoring two runs in the top of the first, and Baker answering with three runs in the bottom of the inning.

Leadoff batter Kiley Jo Aldrich was hit by a pitch, and Brooklyn Rayl, who went 4 for 4 with three RBIs, followed with a single that scored Aldrich, who had stolen second and advanced to third on a wild pitch.

Makayla Rabourne doubled to move Rayl to third, and Rayl scored on Cuzick’s groundout. Rabourne later scored on a wild pitch to give Baker a 3-2 lead.

“The game started as I expected,” Gulick said. “I figured each team would score a few early as the girls worked through their playoff nerves.”

Philomath quickly regained the lead at 4-3 after two innings, and the Warriors extended the advantage to 8-3 with three runs in the top of the fifth.

But then the “scoring floodgates opened for us,” Gulick said.

Baker sent 15 batters to the plate during the bottom of the fifth. The Bulldogs did most of the damage with two outs.

Rayl led off with a single. After a strikeout, Cuzick and Kaci Anderson both walked to load the bases. Candace Peterson singled to score two runs, and Baker trailed 8-5.

“Candace’s hit gave us a great momentum boost,” Gulick said.

Although Peterson was thrown out trying to steal third for the second out, Baker continued to put pressure on the Warriors.

After Baker scored another run on an error, Te’ygan Coley and Ashlyn Dalton hit consecutive doubles, with Dalton’s hit scoring Coley to cut Philomath’s lead to 8-7.

Emrie Osborn and Aldrich drew consecutive walks to load the bases again. Rayl hit a two-run single to give Baker the lead at 9-8.

Baker took advantage of a Philomath error to extend its lead to 11-8, and Cuzick and Kaci Anderson each had an RBI single to push the lead to 13-8.

Baker wrapped up the inning by scoring one more run on an error.

Cuzick and Peterson each had two RBIs.

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