Tualatin, after winning the league championship, falls to Grizzlies

by: DAN BROOD - TURNING IT -- Tualatin High School sophomore second baseman Nathan Senger makes a throw to first base after forcing out a McMinnville runner at second. The Wolves will host David Douglas in a Class 6A state playoff game on Monday.TUALATIN — The Tualatin High School baseball team didn’t exactly want to end their Pacific Conference schedule with a loss.

But, for the Timberwolves, there were certainly things that were more important.

First, they had already clinched the conference championship. And, maybe most important of all, they were getting ready for the state playoffs.

And last week’s setback to a strong McMinnville squad just may help them with that.

Tualatin completed its conference schedule with a 5-3 loss to the Grizzlies in a back-and-forth contest played May 14 at Tualatin High School.

“That was a little more intense,” Tualatin senior catcher Jake Gellos said after the contest. “We know that we made a few mistakes. We’re trying to get ready for the playoffs. This could help us. We’re looking to come out strong.”

“We hope to learn from this,” Tualatin senior outfielder Brandon Shroyer said. “We’re really excited for the playoffs. We just want to get better every day and stay focused.”

Tualatin finished the Pacific Conference season with a record of 13-4 (while moving to 19-5 overall, at that point), leaving the Wolves one game ahead of second-place McMinnville in the final standings.

“That means a lot to us,” Shroyer said of Tualatin’s seventh straight conference championship. “That was one of our goals at the start of the season. Seven in a row is pretty good.”

But, while Tualatin has captured seven straight conference titles, the Wolves haven’t been able to come away with state playoff victories the last two years. In 2012, they fell 11-7 to McNary in a first-round contest and, last year, they were edged 3-2 by Central Catholic in a postseason opener.

by: DAN BROOD - BACK TO THE BAG -- Tualatin senior Jake Gellos (right) looks to get back to first base before McMinnville can get a double play after catching a fly ball.Tualatin is working hard to get a different outcome this year.

“We definitely are trying to get past the first round,” Gellos said. “If we fix things, we can go a long way.”

“One of our goals is to get past the first round,” Shroyer said. “We know that any team can beat us, so we have to be ready. We have to have that mindset. Our main goal is to go all the way, but we have to take it one game at a time.”

The Wolves, who enter postseason play as the No. 3 in the final OSAA power rankings, will open the Class 6A state playoffs Monday when they host David Douglas in a first-round game set to start at 4:30 p.m. at Tualatin High School.

“We need to work hard to fix some things,” Tualatin coach Adam Strachan said. “And we have a lot to fix.”

In last week’s conference finale with McMinnville, the Wolves grabbed a quick lead with a run in the bottom of the first inning. Senior Joey Fishback singled to left field to lead off the inning.

He moved all the way to third base on a McMinnville throwing error on a pickoff attempt and then scored on a sacrifice fly by Gellos to give the Wolves their early 1-0 advantage.

From there Tualatin junior pitcher Karter Cook continued to shut out the Grizzlies until the top of the sixth inning.

McMinnville got an RBI single from junior David Brosius and an RBI double by junior Cameron Fox to take a 2-1 lead.

The Wolves answered back in their half of the inning. Junior Tanner Marsh drew a walk to lead off the inning. Sophomore Chase Anderson then reached first base when McMinnville committed a throwing error on his sacrifice bunt.

by: DAN BROOD - GOT HIM -- Tualatin junior Karter Cook (right) touches first base before McMinnville's David Brosius can get to the bag.One out later, after Gellos walked to load the bases, senior Cooper Brunner plated Marsh with a single to center, tying the game at 2-2. Anderson then scored on a sacrifice fly by Shroyer to give Tualatin a 3-2 lead.

But, in the top of the seventh, McMinnville got a two-out, three-run double by junior Adrian Uscanga to reclaim the lead at 5-3. Tualatin wasn’t able to come back in its half of the inning, leaving the Grizzlies with the two-run win.

Tualatin got just three hits in the contest, singles by Fishback, Gellos and Brunner.

Cook, pitching the distance for the Wolves, struck out six batters and walked three.

Tualatin bounced back from the loss to get a 7-5 non-league home win over Crescent Valley on Saturday.

The Wolves, if their win their first-round state playoff game on Monday, will host a second-round playoff tilt on Wednesday.

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