6A baseball: Clackamas squanders four-run lead in 8-4 loss to Westview
One big inning dashed the Clackamas Cavaliers' hopes for a second consecutive state title Saturday.
Westview erupted for six runs in the fourth inning to erase an early four-run and help lift the top-ranked Wildcats to an 8-4 victory over the defending-champion Cavaliers in Saturday's OSAA Class 6A baseball championship final at Volcanoes Stadium in Keizer.
Ben Brauckmann capped Westview's fourth-inning outburst with a two-run single off Clackamas reliever Greg Mehlhaff that scored Josh Moreno and Willie Weiss, breaking a 4-4 tie and putting the Wildcats (28-3) in front to stay.
Clackamas scored four runs on three hits in the first two innings, but the Cavaliers (24-7) struggled the last five innings when the offense dried up and the defense broke down in several key moments.
Five errors cost Clackamas greatly, but there also were a couple of Westview hits on balls that the Cavaliers are convinced should have been outs if they had only played the type of defense that had carried them to consecutive wins over Forest Grove, Grant, Central Catholic, and South Salem to open the playoffs.
"It's a tough one to swallow, just because we kind of beat ourselves," Mehlhaff said. "I love this team and I would have rather lost with these guys than won with any other team.
"We definitely didn't play to our potential today, but it's been a great year and the defense has been great every step of the way. I love all these guys and it's been a fun ride."
Clackamas sent seven batters to the plate in the first inning against Weiss, the Westview starter, and scored three runs on one hit, two walks, one hit by pitch, and one Wildcats' error.
Grant Schoen led off with a walk, advanced to second on Alex Claxton's sacrifice, and scored on Mehlhaff's double to left. Jake Zehr then got hit by a pitch, Bubba Jaha walked, and Nate Vaughn hit a grounder that Brauckmann, Westview's second baseman, played into an error, allowing Mehlhaff and Zehr to score and give the Cavs a 3-0 lead.
In the second, Clackamas' Cole Hegar led off with a single, went to second on Ryan McDonald's sacrifice, and scored on Schoen's single up the middle to make it 4-0.
So far, so good
Senior right-hander Tucker Grote drew the start for Clackamas and walked four of the first 10 batters he faced, yet got through the first three innings unscathed with the help of two double-plays -- one on a line drive to Jaha at shortstop in the second, the other on a grounder to McDonald at second base in the third.
"At first, I thought I'd very nervous with the big crowd and all that, but I just focused on me and the catcher," Grote said. "Just think about that put me in a better place and helped me relax.
"I was feeling great because our offense was doing pretty well and I knew I could rely on my defense, but I also knew that I couldn't just let up and go easy on Westview. I tried too hard and kept on walking people and then it just went downhill from there."
In the fourth, Westview sent 10 batters to the plate and scored six runs on five hits, one walk, and two Clackamas errors
Carter Sakamoto's sacrifice fly to center field pushed home Jhamante Woods with the Wildcats' first run, Mason Guerra's RBI-double scored Jacob Cox, Tyler Antich singled to chase Grote from the game, and Evan Williamson greeted Mehlhaff with a sacrifice fly to right field that drove in Guerra to make it 4-3.
The Cavaliers had a chance to get out of the inning with the lead when Westview's Moreno hit a pop fly down the left-field line and over the head of Claxton at third base. Jaha came over from shortstop and called for the ball, but stumbled and fell without getting a glove on the ball, allowing Antich to score the tying run.
"I kind of got there late," Jaha said. "I was looking back and Alex (Claxton) and then kind of looked up and I think I stepped on something. I don't know."
After another error kept the inning alive and put runners at second and third, Brauckmann singled up the middle off the glove of a diving McDonald at second, scoring Moreno and Weiss to give the Wildcats a 6-4 lead.
"I'm still not sure exactly what happened," Cavaliers coach John Arntson said. "The wheels just kind of fell off on us. That's just not us. What happened was really uncharacteristic. The errors, then we walked a couple guys, and that many free bases … we just don't do that.
"Errors are kind of contagious and you could feel the momentum shift a little bit there and we just couldn't get our feet back underneath us there. It was tough to just get out of that inning."
Westview added another run in the fifth and one in the sixth, while the Cavaliers had only two hits in the final three innings -- Mehlhaff's one-out single off Weiss in the fifth and Hegar's two-out single off Brauckmann in the sixth.
"Westview's a good team," Arntson said. "We stymied them early and put them on their heels, and then you've got to tip your cap to them. They continued to battle back, they put some balls in play, and I think we kind of helped them out a little bit there, but that's the name of the game. You've got to keep putting pressure on teams, and Westview was able to do that."
Westview claimed its second state title. The first was in 2011.
"The kids stuck with the plan," Wildcats coach Matt Bailie said. "We'd been preaching to our team, 'Put the ball in play hard and make these high school kids make plays.' You put pressure on guys and some of them have a tendency to do unorthodox things and make errors, and that's what happened today.
"For them to stick it out, stick to the plan, and then come out and perform the way they did under some high expectations is just awesome."
For Clackamas, the loss was bittersweet, especially for the team's 12 seniors -- Ryan Ahlstrom, Tommy Gutierrez, Evan Johnston, Jack Kelly, Kyle Kirsch, Max Koester, Jaden Shaw, Grote, Jaha, Hegar, McDonald, and Mehlhaff -- who were part of a program that over the past four seasons compiled a 98-25 record with three Mt. Hood Conference titles, one state championship, and a state runner-up.
"It's a team full of senors that have been playing together since fourth grade," Jaha said. "To think that this is really your last game with all of them … yeah, that makes it tough."
Said Arnston: "I told them after the game, 'I know it stings right now, but years down the road, this season is going to be something they're going to tell their kids about. It was something to hang their hat on and be really proud of."
By Jim Beseda
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