Young Beaverton baseball battles past Churchill
The scenario played out like a late-season Metro League contest with postseason implications on the line.
Beaverton's 4-0 lead against Churchill evaporated. The young Beavers were backpedaling, locked into a 4-4 tie with the Lancers after Churchill scored three runs in the fifth and another in the sixth. It felt like one of those Metro games that goes back-and-forth and all comes down to one inning, whichever team can execute under the tightest of tension.
Beaverton is breaking in seven, sometimes eight new starters into the lineup, and replacing 14 seniors off last year's Class 6A semifinal squad but the learning-as-they-go Beavers are getting the hang of how to handle the clutch.
Phoenix Forster started off the seventh with a single. Sophomore Logan McRae punched a single between the left and right fielder that brought Chace Fery sprinting around third and sliding feet first into home for the go-ahead score, 5-4. And in the bottom of the seventh junior pitcher Tommy Wahlin went to work, retiring the final Lancer of the game with runners on first and second base to preserve the 5-4 win at Tigard High School on Monday.
"It came down to who wanted it more," Beaverton senior pitcher Manny Castineira said. "We kind of had to come back to life there. We settled early on in the middle innings and we had to bring it back. We wanted to pull it out and wanted it more than they did and made some big plays down the stretch."
"We can't get too comfortable, we have to always fight, always score runs," Beaverton sophomore third baseman John Oleson said. "Our defense was pretty good today and we had a couple of clutch hits, a couple of clutch RBIs. We stayed focused and within ourselves. We didn't try to do too much and played together."
Beaverton leaped out to a 3-0 in the top half of the first. And in the top of the fourth Wahlin hit a two-out single to center with two outs and the left-handed hitting Grant Kirby pulled a double down the first base line. With Connor Patrick at the plate, Wahlin zipped home on a wild pitch to push Beaverton's lead to 4-0.
Castineira got the start for the Beavers and cruised through four innings, using a mix of heat and finesse to rack up strikeouts and routine putouts for his defense out in the field. The southpaw ran into some trouble in the fifth when Churchill scored on a pair of RBI doubles and added an RBI groundout to pull within 4-3. Beaverton loaded the bases in the sixth but couldn't cash in and Churchill evened up the game at 4-4 in the bottom of the stanza with a fielder's choice. But each time Castineira found himself in a tricky spot with runners in scoring position, he escaped without giving up the lead. And his young teammates picked him up in the seventh when Forster reached base and was pinch ran for Fery, who stole second to put himself in scoring position for McRae. Wahlin came out of the bullpen in the seventh and got the win, Beaverton's third this season in non-league play.
"The beauty of baseball is anybody can step up into that moment when their name is called," Castineira said. "Toward the end, it definitely felt like a big Metro game. It got a little nerve-wracking, but we found it inside ourselves to pull that win out. We stayed focused and continually brought the energy. We kept adding on and everybody did their job. It was a big confidence booster for us going into Metro."
Castineira and Grant Kirby were the only juniors to play consistently for Beaverton last year when the Beavers went on a postseason tear and nearly knocked out West Linn in the 6A playoffs. There are lots of intriguing pieces, players like Oleson, McRae and Forester who have experienced success at the youth baseball levels playing for various club teams but are unproven at the varsity level. Metro is known for feeding young hitters to the wolves, especially with ace pitches such as Jesuit's Mick Abel and Westview's Willie Weiss on the docket. They're Division One arms with 90 miles an hour heat. Yet, after a somewhat slow start, Beaverton's getting better and adjusting to the speed of the varsity game.
"The confidence in our swings has really gone up and guys like Abel and Weiss, I feel like we can hit them no problem now," Castineira. "I feel like we can battle and come after those teams. There's no doubt in my mind we can be one of the best teams in Metro."
"We have the talent to be one of the top two teams in Metro," Oleson added. "I feel like we can compete with anybody."