Luke Van Norman delivered the biggest hit of his Dr. Stewart’s playing career on Thursday under the lights at Bill Gray Stadium at Legion Field.
“I’ll remember that for the rest of my life,” Van Norman said.
There wasn’t much more Van Norman needed to say after providing one of the biggest highlights of the Dr. Stewart’s on the final day of the regular season.
Van Norman hit a two-out, bases-loaded triple in the bottom of the seventh to send the Docs (25-16, 10-10 Area 4) to an 8-7 walk-off win over Klamath Falls (6-31, 3-17). The Docs also delivered a comeback 7-4 win in Game 1 to sweep the Falcons and finish the regular season on an eight-game winning streak.
“That’s what you play baseball for,” said a soaking wet Van Norman after getting a doused in a postgame celebration. “One of my favorite baseball memories right there.”
He wasn’t alone in thinking it’s a night that won’t be forgotten.
“That was so cool,” said Spencer Six, who was waiting on deck when Van Norman ended the game. “That ball was absolutely murdered. That’s definitely in my top 10.”
Van Norman’s blast capped off a seventh inning rally for the Docs, who trailed 7-3 to start their final at bats.
Jonathan Stone was hit by a pitch from Klamath Falls starter Scott Lewis to get the first runner on base with one out. A double by Jett Black and a single by Cody Johnson drove in the first of five runs in the inning for the Docs.
Blake Loney relieved Lewis on the mound and promptly got a forceout at second on a groundball by Jacob Luther.
Down to their final out, the Docs loaded the bases on a single by Jace Stoffal and a walk to Drake Borschowa. The left-handed hitting Van Norman pulled his first triple of the season to the alley in right-center, just out of the reach of centerfielder Kaden Balanos.
“Gutty effort by the guys all the way around,” Docs coach Jeremiah Robbins said. “It was an ugly game and I was kind of thinking this is not a good way for the Docs to step off this vintage field to head into the playoffs.”
With the win, the Docs finished third in the Area 4 standings and secured a berth in a best-of-three Super Regional series against the Post 6 Barbers from Hillsboro. The series will be played in the Portland-area, with Game 1 on Monday. A start time and location have not been confirmed.
Van Norman went 3-for-5 in Game 2 after being a late addition to the lineup for Caden Johnson. Five other Docs players finished with two hits in the game.
In the first game, the Docs put up five runs in the fifth inning to come back from a 4-2 deficit.
Black started the rally with an RBI single to get the Docs within one and Cody Johsnon drew a bases-loaded walk to bring in the game-tying run. Luther put the Docs in front with a two-run single to left and Caden Johnson capped the scoring by getting hit by a pitch with the bases loaded.
“If we play the game our way and we play the right way, we always have a chance to get back into it or win it in this case,” Six said about the two comeback victories.
“We’re all starting to gel together finally and we’re all just being with each other and being about the team, not about ourselves and we’re really killing it right now.”
The Docs finished the regular season six games behind Area 4 champion Eugene, which won its first league title since 2016. The Challengers receive an automatic berth in the state tournament beginning July 27 in Klamath Falls.
Willamette Valley finished second in the league and will host a Super Regional series against the Mid-Coast Dungies.
Medford finished tied with the Docs, but take fourth in the standings due to the tiebreaker. The Mustangs will have a shot at winning their sixth consecutive state championship, but will have to make it through the Corvallis Gerding Builders Marketmen in a Super Regional just to reach the state tourney.
Grants Pass took fifth in the league standings and was eliminated from postseason contention after getting swept by Medford on Thursday.
Klamath Falls is the host of the state tournament and receives an automatic berth in the tournament after finishing last in league play.
“We’re 0-0 at this point,” Robbins said. “The regular season is over. I thought we did a very good job with the regular season, but heading into the Super (Regionals) we’ve got our work cut out for us.”
As for the challenge ahead of the Docs, Spencer Six had a simple message:
Klamath Falls 220 000 0 — 4 7 3
Roseburg 100 150 x — 7 7 3
C. Whitlock, Campbell (5) and Loney; Meisner, Zeimet (2), Cody Johnson (7) and Six. WP — Zeimet (1-2). LP — C. Whitlock. Sv — Co. Johnson (4). 2B — Gillespie (R). 3B — Ca. Johnson (R).
Klamath Falls 100 006 0 — 7 10 1
Roseburg 000 210 5 — 8 14 3
Lewis, Loney (7) and Waits; Hope, Anderson (5), Pettibone (6) and Six. WP — Pettibone (2-0). LP — Loney. 2B — Black (R), Luther (R), Stone (R), Van Norman (R). 3B — Van Norman (R).