GRESHAM, Ore. – Sunday’s season finale may have been inconsequential in the long run, but as head coach Justin Barchus has said on multiple occasions this season, it’s always nice to win any time you compete.
Indeed, the Gresham GreyWolves won on Sunday, putting a nice bow on its first-ever season as a franchise. The 5-4 win against the Bend Elks also gave Barchus’ team a series victory over the visitors from Central Oregon.
“It is fun having this group of guys behind me, so I just wanted to have a good time and end on a high note,” says starting pitcher Spud Heideman (5-2), who received the win on Sunday. “I think I was able to do that, making good pitches and getting some solid defense to back me up.”
It was only fitting that Heideman (Concordia-Wisconsin) toed the rubber for Barchus on the final day of the season. The day was the culmination of two years’ worth of work with Barchus, as the pair was also together last summer with the Klamath Falls Gems.
Heideman was productive and economical Sunday, everything a coach could want out of the most reliable arms on his pitching staff. The right-hander exited the game after seven innings of work, striking out eight while allowing just two runs on four hits.
“Experience,” Barchus says when asked what Heideman has brought to Gresham this year. “He has been our guy, whether it was in this league last summer or through being one of the older guys on the staff this season. We relied on him a lot this year throughout the good and the bad, and he continued to prove himself. Today was no different.”
While Heideman was throwing up zeroes on the mound, a familiar storyline was developing offensively. Mark Cardinalli (UC Davis), who was arguably Gresham’s (15-12, 26-28 overall) MVP for the second half of the season, finished the night with three RBIs and a two-run homer that gave his team some much-needed insurance.
“He just has a quiet confidence,” says Barchus about Cardinalli. “We talked about needing a three and a four hitter and he stepped into both of those roles nicely in the second half. There’s no doubt that he was the most feared hitter in the lineup for us, and he pretty much won tonight’s game for us at the plate by himself.”
After Cardinalli’s third home run of the season put the GreyWolves ahead 5-2, Bend (10-17, 21-33) struck back for two runs in the top half of the eighth inning. It appeared as if they were also going to tie the game in that penultimate frame, but a strong throw from the senior out in left field cut down the game’s tying run at the plate.
The laser preserved the lead, a lead that would be held onto in the ninth despite allowing a one-out walk to the Elks. That baserunner was quickly erased, however, going down on a taylormade 4-6-3 double play ball to end the game, and the season.
That season – the first-ever for the Gresham GreyWolves – is now complete. A franchise that was founded just 10 months ago quickly put together a coaching staff and team that not only held their own in their first year of West Coast League play, but also finished just three wins away from a playoff berth.
Over the course of this 10 week, 54-game summer, the GreyWolves have gone from a group of players and coaches that for the most part had never met each other, to teammates that aren’t ready to leave.
“I’m going to miss all of them,” Barchus says. “They developed a chemistry that I haven’t been a part of for a long time with a team. It is unfortunate that they’ve only been together for two and a half months, because they finally start to feel like a family right when they have to go home.”
Some of the players have already returned to their respective schools, while others will start to funnel back throughout the coming weeks. Fall ball is right around the corner, and that will be followed by the spring season.
At this time next summer, some of the same players could very well be back in Gresham, while others will spread out to different teams at different levels of baseball across the country. The GreyWolves will continue to grow and live on, but nothing figures to top the lasting memories made in their inaugural season.