Clarion Staff Photo
Baseball is a game of superstitions. There is always some strange thing that goes on around the diamond, and all the players think they can find some luck out of it. For example, a player doesn’t clean his socks because when he wears them dirty, his team wins. Or a player kisses both palms, hits the plate two times with his bat, and taps his forehead three times before every at bat. For the Cleveland Warriors’ baseball team, that strange thing is “Toger.”
The origin story of Toger is not the most interesting, but as the season went on and Cleveland started winning more and more ball games, no one cared about how it started. A few of the Warrior players were off golfing one day, and they were talking in funny accents. They were calling their shots, and using big profesional golf names. In their accent, the word Toger came out instead of Tiger, as in Tiger Woods. Nobody really knows why it stuck, but if you ever came to a game this spring, you would have heard the guys screaming, “Way to be a Toger!” after a big hit.
Eli Morse, the varsity team captain, brought his copy of the Tiger Woods golfing video game to every game. Before the first pitch, every member of the team would have to kiss the Toger for good luck.
Toger may have been a huge piece to the puzzle this season, but the way the Warriors were playing this year, it was almost as if they didn’t need it. Morse, the senior who has been a varsity player for all four of his high school years, was essential to the team success this year. He led the team to the playoffs for the first time in his high school career.
A 9-8 record in the PIL got them a playoff berth, but it wasn’t easy. Going into the last regular season game, the Warriors still hadn’t qualified. Due to possible weather issues on May 11, Cleveland had to play a doubleheader the day before for the last couple games of the season. The opponent was Roosevelt, a team that swept the Warriors the year before, so it wasn’t just about the playoffs, it was about retaliation.
The first game of the two was a blowout 9-0 win. But in the second, things got interesting. Even though the Warriors had a 3-1 lead going into the fifth inning, they ended up being down 7-3 going into the last inning. They had three outs to score at least four runs. They scored one run with no one out, but then after two quick outs, they found themselves with their backs against the wall. The team battled by stringing a few hits together and managing to get on base by any means necessary. The team was down one, and every Cleveland fan, player, and coach was confident that the game would go in their favor. Then with two outs, and the bases loaded, Ethan Gilhuly, the senior right fielder, walked it off. When the ball came off the bat, it looked like a for sure pop out. But once the ball got closer to the ground, it was screaming trouble. The right fielder for Roosevelt sprinted to the ball. The effort was 100 percent there, but the execution came short, as he dove and missed the ball by an inch. The runners on third and second came around to score, and the players went crazy. It was a game that will be remembered for a long time.
Two weeks later, they trekked to Beaverton, the fourth ranked team in the state, for round one of the playoffs. Toger was helpful, but it wasn’t enough. The Warriors struggled to get the bats going, and ended up losing 7-0, eliminating them from the playoffs. But heads were up the whole time.
“I’m disappointed in the way the season ended, but I’m really proud of our team for all the work we put in to make the playoffs,” says Morse. “We came together and pushed each other to become better on and off the field, and I couldn’t have asked for a better group of guys to spend my senior year with.”
The varsity squad made the playoffs for the first time since Cleveland turned into a 6A school. “We played for each other, not ourselves,” says Riley Oh, the senior who started at shortstop all season, and got a spot on the all PIL second team. The team preached about positive attitude all year, and it propelled them to the fourth spot in the PIL. It was a season of ups and downs, but the ups lasted long, and the downs were shut out quickly.
One of those ups was the 2-0 win over Lincoln on April 28. Morse, who committed to a baseball scholarship at the University of Portland, pitched the shutout. His fastball is in the upper 80s, and his off speed weapons are ankle breaking. No wonder the number one team in the PIL couldn’t touch him.
Not only was this a great year, but the future looks bright. “I know this team will be able to build off of this year’s accomplishments and find success in the near future,” says Morse.
He’s not lying either. This year’s varsity team had five sophomores and one freshman. “I think we will need to start working out very early fall and get ready for the next season. I personally think me, [Jacob] Healy, Cole [Gilhuly], and [Jacob] Cobb need to step up and lead this team for the rest of highschool,” says Ethan Barfield, a sophomore who starts on varsity. “Our team chemistry needs to be brought back up, and that starts with a leader, but it’s gonna be a hell of a season and we will prove everyone wrong. The name of Cleveland baseball is changing and we are letting the league know we’re not a bunch of softies.”
As these underclassmen get older, the Warriors will keep their momentum going, and push towards future playoff games. But whether future Cleveland teams are more successful or not, the players will always remember this milestone season.
All League PIL
Eli Morse (Pitcher), senior
Jacob Cobb (Catcher), sophomore
Eli Morse (First Base), senior
Riley Oh (Infield), senior