by: TIMES PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - Beaverton sophomore pitcher Sam Noyer allowed one run in three and a third innings against Jesuit on Thursday to help the Beavers clinch a share of the Metro League Championship.

It’s about time to start believing in Beaverton baseball again.

Deemed more as a mid-tier Metro squad with little room to move up in one of the best leagues in the land, the Beavers sustained their staggering season, sweeping Jesuit with a 7-1 win on Thursday to clinch a share of the Metro League Championship.

Incredibly, the team that was rarely mentioned in the same breath as Jesuit, Sunset or Southridge in the preseason is standing tall as Metro champs. And, they did it flooring fashion, dusting off the Crusaders with three straight wins over the squad many picked to win the league.

“Don’t sleep on Beaverton baseball because we’re coming after you,” said Beaver junior outfielder Nolan Lafollette. “People were down on us, but that’s the last thing they should be saying now. We’re on the road to glory now.”

“This is one of the coolest things we’ve done already,” added Beaverton junior shortstop Casey Cornwell. “This is the first time we’ve beat (Jesuit) in three years, and to sweep them is even better. It feels pretty good right now.”

“The team played hard throughout the whole series and the whole year, but this was the win that mattered most,” said Beaverton starting pitcher Sam Noyer. “We’ve gone through a lot of adversity. We’ve seen the other side of this, but this is the most important game we’ve had.”

Noyer helped his own cause in a big way in the first inning, knocking a clutch, two-out single to left on the first he saw to score Ryan Hill and Sam Eppler to go up 2-0 early. Then, in the third Justin Wakem’s RBI groundout gave Beaverton a 3-1 lead.

Jesuit had Noyer on the ropes in each of the first three innings, putting multiple runners in scoring position, only to see the sophomore righty smoothly work his way out of jams with clutch pitches from the mound. Crusader third baseman Evan Haberle’s RBI single to left scored Wyatt Neff in the second inning, but Noyer came back and fanned Donovan Baldocchi with a fastball at the knees to escape trouble.

by: TIMES PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - Beaverton senior outfielder Drew Kimmer throws a ball toward home plate in the fourth inning against Jesuit.

And, with the bases loaded in the third with one out, Noyer punched out Tommy Kaempf for the second out. Neff — the next batter — hit a sharp grounder to the hole between shortstop and third, but Cornwell ranged to his left, gloved the ball and flung an off-balance heave to Rob Lavey for the force out.

“Guys are going to get on base, but you just have to fight through it,” said Noyer. “I had to throw strikes. That’s something I struggled a little bit with, but I trusted my defense, and they did a great job.”

Haberle said throughout the series it seemed like every hard-hit ball Jesuit struck at the Beaverton defense was within the Beavers’ catching range. No matter the ferocity, the Crusaders’ smacks ended up in the gloves of the Beavers’ impenetrable defense that backed Beaverton’s pitching staff time after time. Couple the lack of luck with the subtractions of the ill Colton French and injured Chris Arpan and it made for a frustrating senior day for the Crusaders.

“We’re a better team than that,” said Haberle. “(Beaverton) played a great series, but we didn’t play our game or find a way to put some runs up. When the playoffs come around, we have to do that.”

The left-handed Lafollette led off the fourth by lacing a double to left, and then moved to third on a single by Josh Hill. With runners on the corners and nobody out, senior outfielder Drew Kimmer pulled the wool over Jesuit’s eyes by laying down a precise suicide squeeze that plated a blitzing Lafollette and extended Beaverton’s edge to 4-1.

“We battled,” said Lafollette. “We knew we had a tough game we needed to win. We gave it everything we had and the results showed. We came out fired up.”

Selling the plate appearance as a regular at-bat, Kimmer quickly brought his bat around, squared around and had Lafollette on the hoof at the first sign of contact.

Cornwell singled after Lafollette’s score to load the bases for Sam Eppler with one outs. Eppler hit a grounder to Kaempf who threw to Baldocchi for the force out. But, beating Jesuit to the punch again, Cornwell slid hard into the Crusader second baseman to disrupt the throw, making it tough for Baldocchi to get anything behind the heave. Eppler, barreling down the first base line, beat the throw to first, which let Hill score, 5-1.

“(The Crusaders) crumble when they get down,” said Cornwell. “So, we just kept coming out with energy. That’s what we’ve had these last couple of games and that’s why we come out on top.”

Noyer was pulled with one out in the third inning and runners on first and second for strong-armed reliever Andrew Carter. Carter promptly struck out Marco Albanese and provoked Ken Carlson into a long fly out to right for the final out.

Carter went the rest of the way for Beaverton, pitching four and two-thirds innings of tip-top tossing on the hill to keep the dangerous Crusaders away from the Beavers’ advantage. Beaverton added RBIs from Ryan Hill and Robby Valentine in the top of the sixth.

“We have four pitchers who I think are some of the best in the state,” said Cornwell. “If someone gets in trouble, we can put someone else in to pick ‘em up.”

by: TIMES PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - Jesuit third baseman Evan Haberle throws the ball to first for an out against Beaverton.

Dropping four straight games to finish third in Metro is not the way Jesuit wanted to wrap up its season by any means. But, if the Crusaders are seeking a silver lining, look no further than last season when Southridge fell to the middle of Metro after losing to Aloha, only to thunder back with four straight wins in the 6A postseason. The Skyhawks rode the right arm of Reza Aleaziz for three of the four victories —something Jesuit could duplicate with Oregon State commit Christian Martinek mowing down hitters on the mound — and they got hot at the dish at the right time to send themselves to the state semifinals. Haberle went so far as guaranteeing Jesuit will not only match Southridge’s successful model, but spin it forward to early June when the 6A state championship game transpires.

“We will win a state championship when it’s said and done,” said Haberle. “I still believe that. We didn’t finish off Metro like we wanted to, but Metro is more of a moral victory. If you look at teams that won league the past couple years, they lost in the first round. It doesn’t matter how you start, it’s how you finish. I think we’ll be that team holding up that trophy in Salem. Nobody can beat us if we’re on our game.”

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