HOOD RIVER — Newberg baseball coach Tyler Matlock could not have asked for a better start to the summer, as the Tigers' 19-U baseball team stormed to the title in its first tournament last weekend.
"I don't know if we learned it or remembered it, but I think the biggest thing was that baseball is fun," Matlock said. "Maybe that's the summer mentality that we want to take into the season, that we're going to go out there and have fun and do what we do and hope on most days that it's better than the other team. I think if we can carry that attitude into the season, I think we're going to improve."
Newberg's bats could hardly have been hotter in the opening game of the weekend versus Goldendale, Wash., as the Tigers cruised to a 24-2 victory. Brandon Cervantes had the most memorable moment, slamming a three-run home run.
"He hit a crushing home run," Matlock said. "If there weren't trees behind their fence, it probably would still be going. That thing was just absolutely crushed."
Anthony Stigall kicked off a stellar weekend by pitching two scoreless innings, but Matlock said he was most impressed with the fact that he led off with a strike versus all seven batters he faced.
Starter Spencer Trout pitched the first three innings in Newberg's 13-3 win over The Dalles Hustlers in the nightcap, which gave the Tigers the top seed for bracket play on Sunday. Derek Maiben drove in three runs and hit one of his two triples in the tournament to lead the offense.
The tournament included both OIBA teams like Newberg and American Legion clubs like Eastside Portland, which presented a stiff challenge for the Tigers in the semifinals Sunday morning.
With the contest tied 3-3, Stigall laid down a bunt to drive in Derek Maiben, who had stolen second and advanced to third on a passed ball, for the go-ahead run. Stigall then scored on a double by Ben Zatterberg to make it 5-3.
Cameron Laroche then came on in relief for starter Brandon Cervantes, throwing two shutout innings to preserve a huge win.
"That's a AAA Legion team, so they had three or four 20-year-olds on their team," Matlock said. "That was a really good game. That was the best five innings I've seen Brandon put together. It was a really good win."
Maiben started the championship game versus Hood River Valley, which is comprised mostly of its 20-win high school varsity team, allowing one run in three innings.
Newberg broke a 2-2 deadlock in the bottom of the fifth thanks to a perfectly executed bunt by Taylen Reid, who went on to steal second and reach third on a fielder's choice. Jacob Maiben then drove him home for the winning run and Laroche once again pitched two shutout innings to earn the save.
"He had a great game and he needed that to push through and did a great job for us," Matlock said of Reid, who broke out of a slump.
Matlock characterized Stigall as the MVP of the weekend after he pitched six scoreless innings and drove in 12 of the team's 45 runs on the weekend.
Unlike many OIBA teams, the Tigers don't have any 2016 graduates on the team, so is practically an 18-U team that features some recent graduates along with most of what will be next year's varsity team.
Matlock was pleased with the tone the team set for the season, which continues with a tournament in Aloha this weekend.
"That's what we needed," Matlock said. "These are the kind of weekends that build something, so I'm really, really happy."