Lake Oswego wins key matchup 4-3 over West Linn
The Class 6A state baseball playoffs aren't scheduled to start until May 21.
But anyone who saw Tuesday's West Linn at Lake Oswego contest on Tuesday knew better — with these two teams battling for the Three Rivers League title, the playoffs are on now.
The Lakers took control early on Tuesday, grabbing the lead against the Lions, withstanding a late West Linn rally, hanging on to win 4-3 and take a one-game lead in the TRL title race.
"It had the intensity of a playoff game and it went right down to the wire," said Lake Oswego senior catcher Gabe Deville, who went 1 for 3 at the plate including a two-run double in the third inning. "We always practice those high-pressure situations so that when we get out there, it's almost like practice. It's almost like we're used to it."
"Our group kind of prides ourselves on our grit," said Lake Oswego senior pitcher/shortstop Jake Dukart, who threw six innings, allowing three runs on six hits, two walks and one hit batter while striking out five, and also knocked in the game-winning run. "We are never out of games like we showed in last week's game against Sherwood with eight runs in the sixth. We just never quit when stuff doesn't go our way and we are always fighting back and trying to get ourselves on top."
With the win — the team's eighth straight — the Lakers improved to 10-2 in TRL play and 13-8 overall. The Lions, meanwhile, saw their three-game winning streak snapped and fell to 9-3 in league and 13-7 overall.
"They had a good pitcher on the bump with Jake and they cover a lot of ground in the outfield so that helped them a lot," said West Linn senior second baseman James Marshall, who went 1 for 3 at the plate and reached base twice in the loss. "But we've got to execute and we didn't do that at the right time today."
"It's all the small things that really added up in the end," said junior third baseman Zach Bell, who went 1 for 3 with a two-run double in the sixth inning. "Certain situations come by and you've got to execute. We did a good job hitting line drives to different guys all the times, but in the end, it was just the little things."
Early on, both pitchers — Dukart and West Linn senior Joey Campbell (he threw five innings and allowed three runs on eight hits, one walk and one hit batter while striking out six) — held the upper hand, with Dukart stranding single runners in the first and third while Campbell struck out the side in the first.
But the Lakers' offense broke through in the bottom of the third, with Matt Grimm leading off with a single, then scoring on Alex Giroux's two-out single to center field. Sam Haney followed with another single to center and Deville then doubled down the first base line to plate both runners for a 3-0 lead.
Dukart rolled into the sixth inning with his shutout intact, but wouldn't leave that way. West Linn's Jonathan Kelly led off the inning with an infield single, then scored when J.J. Hoover ripped a one-out double to center.
Garrett Marioni followed with a walk, and when Bell doubled down the left field line, both pinch runner Alex Nicolaes and Marioni came home to tie the score at 3-3.
The Lakers answered in their half of the sixth against Kelly, who came on in relief of Campbell. Jackson Laurent led off with a walk, Matt Sebolsky walked with one out, and Dukart then came through with a line-drive single to right-center field that knocked in Laurent with the go-ahead run.
"The next inning, we came out firing and I hit the guy in. It was huge for us," Dukart said. "I got my pitch and I didn't miss which is what we were trying to do."
Finally, with Alex Vlaisavich on in relief of Dukart in the seventh, the Lakers put the game away. Vlaisavich walked Marshall to open the frame, but settled in after that, striking out Kelly, and after Micah Gibson reached base on an error, struck out Hoover and got Marioni on a line drive to Haney in left to end the game.
"The difference between this year and last year is experience," Deville said. "We know when we get up a lot, we've been there before and things can happen so we've just got to keep grinding it out."
"We're doing a good job putting the bat on the ball, getting line drives, getting hits," Bell said. "It's the small things. It's about execution."
The two teams square off at 5 p.m. Wednesday at West Linn, then play their series finale at Lake Oswego at 4:30 p.m. Friday.
For the game, Giroux went 2 for 4 with one RBI and one run, Laurent went 2 for 3 and scored once, and Grimm was 2 for 3 and scored once. For West Linn, Hoover went 2 for 4 and drove in one run — he was the only Lion with more than one hit.