The Timberwolves score five runs in the seventh inning to post a key win over Hillsboro

by: DAN BROOD - HEADING FOR HOME -- Tualatin senior Connor Scott rounds third base on his way to scoring the Wolves' first run in Tuesday's win over Hillsboro.HILLSBORO — Frustration.

It kept building and building.

Inning after inning, the Tualatin High School baseball team was having problems getting its offense in gear.

But, when the game was on the line, the Timberwolves turned all of that frustration into jubilation.

And they got to celebrate a key league victory.

Tualatin, after being kept in check for the first six innings, exploded for five runs in the top of the seventh inning to get a 6-1 win over Hillsboro in a Pacific Conference game played Tuesday at Hare Field.

“It seemed like it takes us a while to get going,” Tualatin High School junior second baseman Joey Fishback said after the game. “That was very frustrating. In the seventh inning, we realized we needed to get going.”

“That was definitely frustrating,” said Timberwolf senior Connor Scott, who turned in a complete-game pitching performance in the win. “But we have a knack for looking past the negative.”

“We were confident with our bats,” Fishback said.

With the victory, Tualatin improved its league-leading Pacific Conference record to 9-1, keeping the Wolves one game ahead of second-place McMinnville, while also improving to 13-5 on the season. Hillsboro, which is in third place in the league standings, fell to 6-4 in Pacific Conference games and to 12-7 on the season.

“Every game in this league is big,” Tualatin coach Adam Strachan said. “There’s not a bad team in this league.”

“That was a battle,” Scott said. “That’s a good team. I’m proud of how we competed.”

Scott and Hillsboro senior Jack Merrill locked up in a pitchers’ duel early in the contest.

The teams were in a scoreless tie until Hillsboro broke through with a run in the bottom of the third inning. Merrill drew a leadoff walk to start the frame for the Spartans. He was forced out at second on a fielder’s choice grounder by sophomore Dylan Fredrick.

Fredrick moved to second base when senior Sefanos Panayiotuo drew a one-out walk and then he scored on a two-out double by junior Chase Kaplan to give Hillsboro a 1-0 lead.

Tualatin threatened in the top of the fourth inning when senior Austin Marsh reached first base with two outs on a Spartan error and Andrew Schlottmann followed with a walk. But Merrill coaxed a deep fly-ball out off the bat of Cooper Brunner to get out of the jam unscathed.

But the Wolves were able to push across a tying run in the top of the fifth inning. Scott drew a one-out walk to get things going.

He moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by sophomore Jacob Bennett and then he scored on Fishback’s single to center to tie the game at 1-1.

Tualatin threatened again in the top of the sixth inning. Schlottmann hit a two-out single to left field and Brunner followed with a double down the right-field line, putting runners on second and third base. The next Timberwolf batter, junior Jake Gellos, ripped a line drive to center, but the ball sailed right to Frederick, playing in center field, who made the catch to end the inning.

Hillsboro put together a big threat of its own in the bottom of the sixth. Senior Lauden Lusey had a leadoff infield single and Kaplan followed with a single to right field to put runners on first and second base with no outs.

But Scott picked Lusey off second base and then he struck out the next two batters to end the inning.

That left the teams tied at 1-1 going into the final inning — and that’s when the Wolves got things going.

Scott, leading off the frame, reached first base on a Hillsboro error. Senior Tyler Baggenstos, in a pinch-hitting role, followed with a single to right field after he wasn’t able to get a bunt down to start his at-bat.

“He’s one of our favorites, and he stepped up,” Scott said.

“That was one of the biggest at-bats of the game,” Strachan said. “He went with the pitch. That was really big.”

Fishback then had an infield singled on a high hopper to Merrill, loading the bases with no outs. Then, with the infield playing in, the Spartans weren’t able to cleanly handle a slow grounder by Tualatin senior Jon Fishback. Scott scored on the play to give Tualatin a 2-1 lead.

The Wolves didn’t stop there.

Junior Brandon Shroyer drove in both Baggenstos and Joey Fishback with a line-drive single to center field, upping the margin to 4-1. Marsh then plated Jon Fishback with a sacrifice fly to left field and Shroyer scored on a sacrifice fly by Schlottmann to complete the big inning and give Tualatin a 6-1 lead.

Scott and the Wolves then put Hillsboro down in order in the bottom of the inning to wrap up the victory.

“Our guys grinded through the first few innings,” Strachan said. “We put some balls in play and finally got it going.”

“That was definitely a lot of fun,” Scott said.

In his complete-game performance on the mound, Scott gave up the one run on five hits while striking out eight and walking two.

The Timberwolves also played errorless defense.

“Our defense played pretty well,” Joey Fishback said. “Connor throws a lot of groundballs. It’s not tough to play defense behind him.”

Tualatin had seven hits in the contest. Joey Fishback had two of those hits while Marsh, Schlottmann, Brunner, Baggenstos and Shroyer added one hit apiece.

Merrill, in six-plus innings of work for Hillsboro, gave up six runs (three earned) while striking out three and walking two.

Tuesday’s game marked the opening of two crucial series for the Wolves. Tualatin was slated to finish the three-game series with Hillsboro this week and then open a three-game series with McMinnville on Tuesday.

“These are big for us,” Joey Fishback said. “This is the final run for placing. But every game we’re playing in is the biggest of the season.”

“They’re huge,” Scott said of the two series. “This is a great time of the year.”

Tualatin and Hillsboro were slated to play the second game of their series Wednesday at Tualatin High School.

Results of that game weren’t available when The Times went to press.

The final game of the series will be played Friday, starting at 5 p.m., at Hare Field.

The series with McMinnville will open Tuesday with a 5 p.m. game at Tualatin.

The second game of the series will be played Wednesday at Patton Middle School in McMinnville. The series will end May 3 with a 5 p.m. game at Tualatin.

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