The East Linn Christian Academy baseball team finished its season on a high note on Friday afternoon, taking a 6-5 victory over visiting Oakridge.
The Eagles completed their season with a record of 4-13, 4-10 in 2A/1A Special District 3.
But the year was more successful than the record would indicate. For the first time, the Eagles played their home schedule at their own on-campus baseball park.
The field has been a dream of coaches and administrators for 20 years, but work began to move forward in earnest in 2016.
Kellen Peters, the athletic director at East Linn Christian, credited T.J. Garber, the school's development director, and Corey Burns with leading the final push.
"They just know people that can get stuff done. I would come in on a Monday and there would be stuff done that I didn't know was going on," Peters said.
Essentially all of the labor for the project was donated as well as much of the supplies. Peters estimated the total cash cost of the project at $20,000 to $25,000, a remarkably low amount.
The field sits on the northwest edge of the rural campus, down a small hill from the track. The park is 360 feet to center field, 295 feet down the left-field line and 305 down the right-field line.
The baseball program was revived at East Linn Christian in 2012. Jake Bates, now the team's head coach, played on that squad. For several years, the team played its games at Community Bible Church.
Not having an on-campus park made it harder to organize practices and draw spectators.
Carson King has been part of the program since his freshman year and was thankful the park was ready for his senior season.
"It's awesome. We actually have fans now coming out to watch us. Before we'd get a couple people every now and then," King said. "It was fun playing there, but this is amazing."
Bates is in his second year as the head coach. He said the new field "made a world of difference."
"Guys would show up late because they have to drive to practice, just being able to store stuff. It makes it so much easier," Bates said.
Against Oakridge, the Eagles scored first, putting up two runs in the third. The Warriors responded with five runs in the top of the fourth.
The Eagles got one run back in the bottom of the frame and then took the lead with three runs in the bottom of the sixth.
East Linn closed the win out with a double play. Second baseman Ashton Sewell got a hard liner and made the quick throw to third base before the Oakridge runner could get back.
"It felt really good to go out like that, especially with a program that's grown so much," Bates said.
Senior Eli Peters had a strong game with a single, a double and two runs scored.
Freshman pitcher Caleb Rickman went the distance and freshman left-fielder Devin King made a good play for an out. They are among six freshman who were on the squad this year.
The Eagles will graduate three seniors, King, Peters and Brandon Bates.
Coach Bates said 20 players took part in the middle school program, including eight eighth-graders. He is hopeful that ELCA can field both varsity and junior varsity teams next season.