Williams, Wildcats pull impossible sixth inning comeback over Beavers
What if you knew that in the bottom of the sixth inning, Westview would be trailing Beaverton 6-0 in the Class 6A semifinals?
What if you were told the Wildcats had just two hits and hadn't put a runner past second base all game? That the Wildcats were on their third pitcher by the fourth inning? That the Beavers looked like a potential state title winner and played like a team on the brink of something big?
How much money would you have bet that No. 5 Westview would go on to beat No. 13 Beaverton?
If any bets were placed on the Beavers at that point, then Westview senior Emma Williams and her battalion of lionhearted teammates broke the bank.
Unbelievably, staring at a six-run mountain of a deficit in the bottom of the sixth inning, Westview completely erased the shortfall with an eight-run avalanche that culminated with Williams' base-clearing, three-run, go-ahead triple that gave the Wildcats an 8-6 lead. And in the top of the seventh, just as she did in the three innings prior, Westview senior pitcher Catriona McKay was nails-tough, allowing just one run to preserve an incredible, improbable, come-from-behind 8-7 win over the Beavers on Friday at Westview High School.
"I never thought we were going to lose that game," Westview junior outfielder Reece Martin said. "Even when Beaverton scored that sixth run, I knew we would come through. There's just so much fight in our team and we just said the team that wanted it more would win. We never let up. Nobody gives up on each other. Every single person believed we could win and that's the most important part."
"You'll see teams quit when they get down, but we don't," Williams said. "We pick each other up and we keep going. Everybody contributed in this game. Even the girls who weren't playing, their energy and positivity contributed. When one person gets a hit, it's contagious and the love just spreads. I really felt the energy pick up in the sixth. We started fresh at the top of the lineup and said 'let's get this done'. And that's what we did. We brought the bats."
Over the last four years or so, Westview's become accustomed to late-inning postseason comebacks, the kind of retorts that reverberate across the state landscape, but nothing like this shockwave. Beaverton, it might be said, couldn't have played better for six-and-a-half innings. Junior pitcher Cierra Speck was stingy the circle, giving Westview little to get a good swing on. The Beaver defense was equally as excellent. Infielders Noe Lambert, Kimaia Gassner and Anika Matsumoto were Beaverton's backbone, protecting Westview's connections from reaching the outfield grass. Senior centerfielder Jazzy Reis robbed two potential extra-base hits off the Wildcats early in the contest. On top of that, the Beavers scored five runs of their six runs with two outs thanks to a two-run single from Gassner and a two-run double from Emma Brockmann. The Beavers were in the catbird's seat, an inning away from a semifinal date with Oregon City.
"We had a lot to prove to Westview," Brockmann. "Win or lose we had to prove that we were a good team and they were going to have to work to beat us. We don't see this as a loss. We see this as they won the game. They did their job to come back and beat us."
But, at the start of the sixth, the game began to turn. Martin and Williams led off the stanza with consecutive singles and Martin scored on an Ananya Koneti RBI single to get Westview on the scoreboard, 6-1. The Wildcats kept churning. Valeti Fifita clocked a Speck fastball to center that plated two and sliced Beaverton's lead in half, 6-3. At this point, with two outs on the board and still an inning to play, one would figure the senior-heavy Beavers would right the ship and get back on course.
Not so fast. Westview second baseman Taylor Alto drilled a RBI single to right to bring the Wildcats' within 6-4. And, Wildcat freshman Mia Patino kept the rally afloat with a single to center that bounced through the once bulletproof Beaver infield.
"(Westview) strung the right amount of hits together at the right time," Brockmann said. "They're a very good team. They're fast with great hitters. Sometimes an inning just gets away from you. Westview was hitting and finding holes. Our outfielders were keeping the ball in front, but Westview has speed. We did everything we could."
Suddenly, Beaverton was on the ropes. Beaverton head coach James Lambert pulled Speck from the circle and inserted Noe Lambert who walked Maddie Curaming and gave up a RBI single to Martin (who had led off the inning) to cut Beaverton's lead to 6-5.
"It's almost an out-of-body experience because you're just so happy," Martin said. "Everybody feeds off of each other so well. I know if I don't get on base, (Williams) will pick me up. Everyone picks each other up and that's what makes you feel so confident when you're hitting. The game isn't on you. We're all in it together."
Westview's home park, known for its impassioned fan base and loyal supporters, was alive, but nothing compared to the party taking place inside the Wildcat dugout. Shaking the fences and rattling off song-like chants in harmonious unison, Westview smelt blood in the water and wanted more.
"We were in (Beaverton's) heads," Williams said. "Softball is 80 percent mental. And, if you can get in the other team's head, there's the game for you. Westview does a really good job of being loud and having energy. Once we get that energy going on the field and in the dugout, we're unstoppable offensively. I respect Beaverton a lot. I know how hard they worked. And for us to come out and come back is an amazing feeling."
Noe Lambert was pulled for Beaverton sophomore southpaw Angelina Baseleon who was tasked with facing Williams in a lefty-versus-lefty matchup with the bases loaded, two outs in a one-run ball game. The outcome, at that point, felt inevitable. Williams slapped an off-speed offering that not only found the left field grass but rolled past the Beaver outfield and cleared all three Wildcats off the bags to claim an 8-6 lead. Williams joined Kylie Alto, Katie Whetstine, Abby Greer and Jodeci Afoa-Tuia among Westview's pantheon of past clutch heroes that came through in similarly stunning fashion.
"As soon as I got into third, I knew we had won," Williams said with a smile. "I knew we were going to go into the last inning and execute."
The unsung hero of the wild affair was McKay. The right-handed reliever completely stopped the bleeding after Patino and Kendall Gantz gave up six runs combined in the first four innings of play. From the top of the fourth inning on, McKay allowed just one hit, a Lambert triple in the seventh. Lambert scored on a RBI groundout by Anika Matsumoto that brought Beaverton within 8-7. However, the Beaver second baseman was plundered by a diving stop-and-throw from Taylor Alto at second on the play for the second out of the inning. And McKay coaxed a comebacker from the dangerous Gassner for the third and final out.
"(McKay) saved the game," Williams said. "She's come so far as a player this year and I'm just so proud of her. She's quiet and soft-spoken, but her pitching on the mound is loud and she brought it today."
McKay's ability to stem the tide gave Westview a puncher's chance at least making the game competitive and ultimately helped mount one of the best comebacks in state playoff history.
"(McKay)had so much composure and that's hard to do in that situation," Martin. "She's a great teammate. She's not about herself at all. She just cares about the team and winning. She works so hard in the offseason too. I would come up (to the field) to hit by myself and she'd be pitching and that showed today. She has great character, she's very composed and came through in the end."
All year this group of 'Cats has been relegated to "wait until next year" status. The loss of past superstars was too great. The amount of youth, while promising, wasn't conducive enough for a long postseason run, it was alleged. Heck, even the most diehard Wildcat fan watching on Friday was probably ready to tip their cap in Beaverton's direction and start looking toward 2018.
But, if we've learned anything over the years, it's that the Wildcats can't be counted out, ever, especially at home. And this specific group of players, some who have been on these magical playoff rides of yesteryear and some who are new to the fascination of the postseason, feel like they're never out of any game because of the friendships they've created off the field and transferred over to the dugout. That shatterproof bond couldn't have been more clear as the Wildcats kept sprinting around the bases like a turnstile, scoring at the home plate and celebrating with such energy and emotion that it ignited their home crowd into hysteria.
"On paper, this team wasn't expected to win anything," Martin said. "But, it's always mental. This year I've really realized how much your head and your heart go into this game. It's not how fast or strong you are. All those hits were on the ground and hit hard. There weren't any grand slams, home runs or anything. We just chipped away. That's what wins games."
"They slept on us," Williams. "But we're a team that loves each other and has each other's backs. We wouldn't be where we are today if we didn't have the team chemistry that we do. It's incredible. I absolutely love this team."
Westview will play No. 1 Oregon City in the 6A semifinals at Oregon City High School on Tuesday at 5 p.m. Pioneer junior pitcher Morgan Hornback is a University of Oregon verbal commit and returning first-team all-state starter who plays on the same club team as Martin during the offseason. The Wildcats, however, are hungry. And a raucous comeback like Friday's contest only whetted Westview's appetite for the bigger stage and higher stakes.
"We want that state title," Williams said. "It's one game at a time and we've done that thoroughly this year. I was on the (2015 Westview) team that made it to the state championship and this team (2017) has even better chemistry. That just gives so much confidence that we'll make it and when we get there, we'll execute. We have to respect every opponent, but we can't fear them at all."