For all intents and purposes, the Lake Oswego Little League 9/11 baseball all-stars were done.
Facing Bend North in the winner's bracket finale at Holland Youth Park in Salem on Tuesday, Lake Oswego saw Bend North push across three runs in the top of the seventh inning to grab what appeared to be a commanding 8-5 lead.
But Lake Oswego manager Rand Smith appealed an umpire's decision on a play at the plate, saw officials take one Bend North run off the board and sent his team into its final at-bat with a new sense of hope.
The Lakers made that last chance count, taking advantage of three hits and three errors to score three times and seal up their 8-7 win on Matt Layne's walk-off single to center field.
"It was right down the pipe," Layne said of his first career walk-off. "It felt really good."
For Layne's teammates, their improbable come-from-behind win was almost too much to believe.
"We got lucky they overturned that call and then we went and got the bats alive," said LO's Ryan Oliver, who went 3 for 4 with a homer. "It's definitely a humbling experience but it's good to have."
"We all thought we were going to lose, but then we saw that it was 7-5 and we all thought, 'Well, it's only two runs so we can easily get back,'" added Karsten Krebs, who went 2 for 4 at the plate, scored once and had a key single in the seventh. "But I had confidence, and then we pulled out ahead and won with a walk-off."
Thanks to the win, the team's third straight at state, Lake Oswego will play either Bend North or West Salem in Thursday's 6 p.m. title contest; if Lake Oswego were to lose that game, the team would have another chance to win the state title at 6 p.m. Friday.
"We're all confident," Krebs said. "We have our best pitcher on the mound and we're probably going to play Bend North again and we all feel confident."
That said, Tuesday's win was a roller-coaster thrill ride from start to finish. The Lakers grabbed an early 2-0 lead in the bottom of the first when Oliver singled home one run and Layne scored the second on a wild pitch.
Bend North answered with a single run in its half of the second when Tristan Pearson singled to left, took second on an error and scored later on a wild pitch by Oliver. But Lake Oswego answered in the bottom of the third when Oliver led off the frame with a long homer to right field that gave his team a 3-1 edge.
Bend North, however, responded impressively, getting its offense untracked with one run in the fourth, two more in the fifth and one in the sixth to take a 5-3 lead. In the fourth, Gavin Derr came through with an RBI double, Nash Lopez's run-scoring single highlighted the fifth, and Byron Miller's sacrifice fly plated teammate Nate Goodman in the sixth for that two-run edge.
Lake Oswego, facing a two-run deficit in half of the sixth, did not blink. Krebs got things going when he reached base on an error to lead off the inning, and Layne and Oliver followed with back-to-back doubles that tied the game at 5-5 and forced an extra inning.
That's when things got really interesting. Bend North put two runners aboard with one out, then pushed ahead 6-5 when Simon Lemke scored on a Sam Trojan wild pitch. Then, with two runners on base following a walk, Derr's single to right appeared to score both Lopez and Pearson while Derr was thrown out at second on the same play.
"I really thought we were done after that," Oliver said.
"I thought we were screwed," Layne admitted.
But Smith appealed the home plate umpire's call — that Pearson's slide at home evaded catcher Finley Smith's tag to score — Pearson was called out, the third run came off the board, the inning ended and the Lakers went into their final at-bat with renewed hope.
In the bottom of the seventh, Trojan reached base on an error, then scored when Bend North made another error on Noah Bastian's grounder. Max Brauner followed with a single, and Bastian scored to tie the game on an error following Krebs' single up the middle.
Miller, on in relief of Lemke, issued an intentional walk to Finley Smith, and Layne followed with the game-winner to center field.
"It felt pretty good," Layne said.
"I was just thinking that I'll never forget this," Krebs said. "It was amazing."
Layne went 3 for 4 in the win. For Bend North, Jackson Cocco, Lemke and Goodman had two hits each.