Beaver baseball outlasts Aloha in marathon Metro matchup
The easy option would've been to pack it in.
After two unthinkable, unshrinking five-run innings from Aloha, Beaverton's 10-1 lead vaporized in the 85-degree sun, sending the Beavers into the top of the seventh trailing 11-10 in a full tailspin.
The same could've been said for Aloha earlier in the contest. Trailing Beaverton 10-1 and on the verge of vanishing in the bottom of the fifth, Aloha could've called it a night, headed home early and circled the wagons for Thursday's rematch.
In both instances, neither team threw in the towel. Instead, the long-time rivals mounted seismic momentum swings, exchanging uppercuts and extra base hits that ran through each squad's pitching staff and had the on-hand crowd on the edge of its seat with every pitch.
Yet, in a war of attrition, it was Beaverton who landed the deciding blow. The Beavers tied the game with a Grant Kirby RBI single, reclaimed the lead when Connor Patrick was hit in the back with the bases full to bring in a run and then added three more scores to regain a 15-11 lead in the top of the seventh.
Then, after 26 combined runs, 12 errors and messy misplays on both sides, Beaverton freshman pitcher Trenton Walker brought a calm to the contest, retiring the final three batters he faced in the seventh to close out the 15-11 win on April 25 at Aloha High School.
"This was a must-win game for us and we didn't quit," Kirby said. "That's just trusting in each other. We have each other's backs. In baseball, there's no shot clock. The only way to put a team out is get 'em out 21 times. In-between that, anything can happen. You have to stay focused, stay locked in and never quit. I'm just really proud of the way we came together and pulled it out in the end."
Admittedly, Aloha has endured its ups and downs as one of the Metro League's more inexperienced teams this season. However, to make such a heroic effort to climb back in the game and put together consecutive five-run frames to not just get within striking range but take the lead was big for the Warrior program.
"We weren't going to give up," Aloha junior third baseman Zack Williams said. "We'll fight back for as long as we need to. We had a lot of energy and one hit just led to another and another and the runs started scoring. You also had the nerves going. You didn't want to be the guy that messed up. You wanted to be the guy who made the play."
Up 3-1 in the top of the fifth, Beaverton poured on seven runs and batted around in the order to take what felt like an insurmountable 10-1 lead. Manny Castineira and John Oleson both had RBI doubles to start the frame and Beaverton walked three times with the bases juiced to plate a trio of runs. Kirby cracked a two-run double toward the end of the stanza.
Yet, Aloha answered five runs in the fifth, including a two-run double from Payne Ashbrook to cut Beaverton's lead to 10-5. The Warriors chased Castineira from the contest in sixth as Matthew Powers singled and scored on a Williams double. Ashbrook hit an RBI single to make it 10-7. Then Ashbrook stole second, which forced a Beaver overthrow into the outfield, which scored Williams, 10-8. And Nathan Acuavera kept the train churning with another RBI single to pull Aloha within a run, 10-9.
"I don't think I've ever been in a game where the momentum has switched that much," Kirby said. "That was insane, but that's baseball, especially high school baseball in the Metro League. You never know. It's unpredictable. I think we proved we're able to come back, which is big for us. A couple of times this season we've got down early and rolled over. But we shook that off today and do that again this season."
Beaverton kept subbing in relief pitchers, desperately trying to stop the bleeding, but Aloha continued to find ways to score. A Beaverton wild pitch moved two Warrior runners over into scoring position for Drew Fritz who pulled a two-run, go-ahead single to left to give Aloha an improbable 11-10 lead. A rivalry that dates back to when many of the Beaverton and Aloha starters played together on youth traveling teams, scouring the state as middle schoolers before splitting up at the high school level, Beaverton and Aloha certainly gave fans their money's worth.
"A lot of those (Beaverton) kids are my friends," Williams said. "I played baseball with them through eighth grade. I played football with a lot of them too. One of them is even my neighbor. It's always good to play against friends like that. I'm glad it wasn't a blowout and we came back and made it an interesting game."
Backpedaling with the game's energy fully residing with Aloha, Beaverton didn't balk in the top of the seventh. Oleson and Castineira singled. After Patrick brought home the go-ahead run Cooper Martineau drove home a score with an RBI single to make it 13-11. Beaverton scored twice more after getting hit by pitches and added another on a ball in the dirt.
With a comfortable lead, Walker was more than effective, striking out Williams looking, getting Ashbrook to pop out and inducing at Acuavera lineout to end the game.
"I'd rather play in a close game than a blowout, that's for sure," Kirby said with a smile. "It was bad on us for coasting like that because I feel like we got complacent in the dugout when we were up 10-1. We need to keep the intensity up because a team like Aloha can hit the ball and put the ball in play a lot. We knew Aloha wasn't going to quit. But, we retaliated, which was big for us."
Beaverton swept the series on Thursday, beating the Warriors 7-6 to move their record to 10-9 overall and 7-6 in Metro. The Beavers now have sole possession of third place in the Metro League standings.
"Moving forward all these games are must-wins for us," Kirby said. "We need to start getting some sweeps and get our seed up for the playoffs."
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