Clackamas tops West Linn, claims 6A baseball title, 5-1
KEIZER -- Clackamas senior left-hander K.C. Reilly got to finish what he started Saturday.
Reilly threw a three-hitter and the No. 2-ranked Cavaliers backed him up with an error-free defense and a nine-hit offense, clinching the OSAA Class 6A baseball state championship with a 5-1 victory over the top-ranked West Linn Lions at Volcanoes Stadium.
Jake Zehr went 2-for-2 with a pair of RBI-singles and drove in the go-ahead run for Clackamas in the fourth inning, and Jordan Mambaje and Grant Schoen each added two hits as the Cavaliers (29-3) won their third state title in 10 seasons and first since 2010.
"I told them after the game, I don't know if anything I called even worked," Clackamas coach Arntson said. "They just went out and did it themselves. That's kind of how this bunch is.
"The one thing I'll say about them is they find ways to win. That's kind of who they are."
Much of Saturday's game revolved around Reilly, the crafty left-hander who seemed to get stronger as the game progressed.
West Linn (27-5) scored a run on two hits in the first inning to take a 1-0 lead, but then had only one other hit off Reilly over the final six innings -- a one-out double in the seventh.
"Reilly was great today," West Linn coach Joe Monihan said. "He had great stuff, he was hitting his spots with his fastball, he was always around the plate, he kept us off balance, and when we did square up on baseballs, they were right at people.
"You've got to tip your hat to him, he did a great job. Anytime you're throwing two pitches around the plate and you're consistent hitting your spots, you're going to be an effective pitcher and he was certainly that today."
The Cavaliers rolled to this season's Mt. Hood Conference title behind a rock-solid defense, timely hitting throughout the lineup, and a three-man starting rotation that featured senior right-hander Caden Hennessy, sophomore right-hander Jeff Nelson, and Reilly. And the same formula held up in the playoffs.
Nelson drew the start as Clackamas opened the playoffs with a 6-0 win over Southridge, but then it was the two seniors who took turns on the mound after that.
First, Hennessy went the distance in a 6-1 win over Century in the second round.
Then Reilly threw a complete game in a 2-1 win over Westview in the quarterfinals.
And, finally, Hennessy again went the distance in a 6-2 win over Sheldon in the semifinals, setting the stage for Reilly's start on Saturday.
"We felt all along that our two seniors were the guys we wanted to go with," Arntson said. "Our sophomore did a great job in the first round, and once he did that, we kind of had it mapped out where we wanted to go with Caden and K.C., and they both did a good job.
"It was K.C.'s turn tonight, and he definitely rose to the occasion, I'll tell you what."
Reilly said his primary objective on the mound Saturday was to throw strikes.
"That was the whole game plan the whole time," Reilly said. "We got down in the first inning, but none of us were fazed by it,
"We knew we were going to hit the baseball, and we were going to get on West Linn at some point. We did, we scored runs, and the runs gave me that much more confidence that I could go out and finish the job right."
After retiring West Linn in order in the fifth, and then doing the same against the heart of the Lions' batting order in the sixth, Reilly noticed some action in the Clackamas bullpen. He then went to Cavaliers' pitching coach Bohlman and assured him that he had things under control.
"I told Bo, 'I'm finishing this game. No one is finishing this for me,'" he said.
West Linn's Jonathon Kelly struck out swinging to lead off the seventh, and then Drew Vannaman hit a pop fly to shallow right field that fell near the foul line for a double.
James Marshall grounded up to shortstop for the second out, moving the runner to third, and then Evan King, West Linn's No. 9 hitter, grounded out to second to end the game.
"Reilly pitched a good game," Lions' first baseman Jake Porter said. "He's definitely hittable, but our bats just weren't there today. Credit him. He pitched a great game."
West Linn catcher Micah Gibson agreed after going 0-for-3 with a strikeout.
"K.C. was dealing," Gibson said. "All his pitches were working. He was painting the corners, doing everything. We've got to tip our caps to him. We still didn't hit the way we should, but we had a really good day."
West Linn starter Tim Tawa took a 1-0 lead and a one-hit shutout into the fourth inning when Clackamas pushed home a run on consecutive one-out singles by Greg Mehlhaff, Schoen and Mambaje, respectively, to tie the score.
With two outs in the fourth, Zehr went to the plate as a pinch-hitter for designated hitter Tucker Grote, a lined a 1-2 pitch from Tawa into right field for a single, scoring Schoen with the go-ahead run.
"I was hunting a fastball," Zehr said. "Tawa was having trouble finding the strike zone with his off-speed stuff, so I was sitting dead-red fastball.
"That hit was a big momentum-changer, and that's what we needed right there. It felt good. Seeing the ball go through the hold into the outfield … that was a great feeling."
The Cavaliers added to their lead in the sixth when Buba Jaha led off with a single, went to second on a wild pitch, advanced to third on Mehlhaff's ground-out to third and scored on Schoen's single to center, making it 3-1.
After Mambaje doubled, putting runners at second and third, Reilly hit a sacrifice fly to center to score Schoen, and then Zehr came through with another single to bring home pinch-runner Jack Kelly, extending the Cavs' lead to 5-1.
"Obviously, today was a big game, but we just played the same brand of baseball that we've played since the beginning of the season," said Mambaje, the Cavs' senior catcher. "Throughout the playoffs, we just kept saying, 'It's just another game.' I think that helped us to not psych ourselves out or anything."
It also helped to have Reilly on the mound Saturday.
"K.C. was on fire," Mambaje said. "There were some first-inning jitters and West Linn got on the board. A lot of pitchers might have rolled over, but K.C. stepped up the rest of the game.
"He was hitting his spots really well, so that helped. There were a couple times he missed, but he stuff was so good, it didn't really matter. He just closes the door. He's done it all season."
Reilly threw a total of 92 pitches, including 55 strikes, and threw first-pitch strikes to 14 of the 27 batters he faced.
West Linn took a 1-0 lead in the first inning when Chase Cosner and Porter hit back-to-back singles with one out, both advanced on a wild pitch, and Cosner scored on Garrett Marioni's grounder to first base.
"I think the first inning, I left the ball over the plate a little too much for them," Reilly said. "They dribbled some balls through, but then I fined tuned some things starting in the second and ... we came out on top."
In the West Linn dugout, the Lions were baffled when their offense suddenly went silent.
"After that first inning, we got a run and I was pretty confident that we would win, but then we kind of slowed down," Porter said. "I definitely throught we were going to get a few more, especially with the top of the lineup coming up.
"I thought Tawa would hit one or something like that. We hit the ball hard, but the balls just dind't fall our way today and that's just the way baseball is."
The Cavaliers last summer went 37-3 and won the Oregon Independent Baseball Association title with virtually the same lineup that took the field Saturday.
"After the summer we had, this is what we talked about," Arntson said. "This was the goal. We didn't hedge around it. That's what we wanted to do, but there's a process to it, and the kids put in their time, and it worked.
"I'm just really proud of these guys. I think there's some pressure on you when you go in as one of the favorites. Sometimes I worried that we were getting ourselves into a situation where it was, 'Win a state title or bust.' I tried to make sure we didn't put that kind of pressure on the guys, but at the same time, I knew in their minds, that was probably where they were all along."