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Brandon Day's two-run double keyed a four-run fifth inning that helped carry the Lakers to a Three Rivers League road win Wednesday over the Pioneers

PMG PHOTO: JIM BESEDA - Oregon City's Ashton Stalheim dives for the plate as Lake Oswego catcher Gabe DeVille fields a low throw in the fourth inning of Thursday's Three Rivers League baseball game at Oregon City.Lake Oswego had runners at first and third with two outs in the fifth inning Wednesday when Brandon Day stepped into the batters' box to face Oregon City starter Christian Mansfield for the third time.

Day looked at a first-pitch fastball that was just off the plate and then he got another fastball on the outer-half of the strike zone — a pitch the senior designated hitter knew what to do with.

Day drove the ball into the gap in right-center field for a double that scored Alex Giroux and Alex Sol, capping a four-run inning that helped carry the Lakers to a 9-8 Three Rivers League road win over the Pioneers.

"I go up to the plate with the same mentality every time, just trying to hit the ball out of the infield and trying to hit it with power," Day said. "The pitch was maybe a little outside. That's why I drove it the other way.

"That's something we work on every day, driving the ball the other way and hitting the ball out of the infield with runners at first and third. In those situations, we need to make those plays."

Wednesday's game was all about timely hitting for Lake Oswego, from Malcolm Williams' two-run double and Matthew Sobolsky's RBI-triple in the second inning, to Thomas Dukart's solo homer in third, to Giroux's RBI-single in the sixth that gave the Lakers an 8-6 lead.

The Lakers survived some seventh-inning drama that saw Oregon City score one run on one walk and two Lake Oswego errors, but the Pioneers left the potential tying run at third when reliever Jacob Matlock struck on Dalton Welch on a high fastball that Welch foul-tipped into catcher Gabe DeVille's glove for the game's final out.

Lake Oswego's final line score — nine runs, 12 hits, six errors — wasn't a thing of beauty, but it was good enough that the Lakers (9-11, 6-5 Three Rivers) extended their longest winning streak of the season to four games.

"I think we were lucky to get out of that game with a win," Lakers coach Jake Anders said. "There aren't too many times you're going to make six errors and win a ball game."

Early momentum

Oregon City, looking to bounce back from Tuesday's 13-3 loss at Lake Oswego, jumped out to leads of 3-0 in the first inning and 6-4 in the fourth, but neither lead was safe as the Pioneers (7-12, 2-8) stumbled to their sixth consecutive league loss.

"You should be able to win a game when you score eight runs, but we made it tough," Pioneers coach J.J. Winkle said. "Our pitching has kind of been that way all year where we just give up way too many hits and way too many runs.

"The Three Rivers is a tough league. If you rely on a fastball all the time to get outs, it's not going to happen. You've got to be able to pitch backward in this league and we just haven't done a good job of that yet this year."

What Winkles says "pitch backward," he means taking something off the fastball, whether that's throwing a breaking pitch or a change-up or some other off-speed pitch.

Mansfield, the Pioneers' senior right-hander, has all those other pitches in his repertoire, but he didn't fool very many hitters on a day when he went five innings and allowed eight runs on 10 hits with two intentional walks and three strikeouts.

"When Christian is one, he's on, but he had a hard time throwing his breaking ball for a strike and keeping his change-up down," Winkle said. "You can't do that against this team. Those Lake Oswego kids can hit, and if you look at our hit chart, they hit a lot of fastballs and fastball counts."

Heavy hitters

Through the first two games of the three-game series, Lake Oswego scored 22 runs while batting .438 (28 for 64) with seven doubles, four triples, and three home runs.

"Honestly, one through nine, we've got some guys," Anders said. "They know that at different times, there's going to different players carrying the team and I think the last two days have been a great example.

"Guys have really been working hard on their swings. I think the fact that we saw so much really good pitching early in the season in benefitting us now. They're kind of hitting their stride and hopefully, we can keep this going."

The Lakers trailed 6-4 in the fifth when they sent nine batters to the plate and scored four runs on four hits, two intentional walks, and a sacrifice fly. The first run came home on Giroux's RBI-single, the second run scored on Sol's sacrifice fly to center, and the final two came around on Day's two-out single.

"Brandon has been big for us," Anders said. "He's a guy that has always been able to hit a little bit and he's been hot for us right now. The thing that Brandon does really well is he stays down through baseballs, and he's confident in what he's doing right now."

Lake Oswego added a run in the sixth when DeVille hit a double and Giroux followed with an RBI-single to make it 9-6.

Oregon City answered in the bottom half of the inning when Kegan Kmetic led off with a single, went to third on an errant pickoff attempt, and scored on T.D. Davison's groundout to second, cutting the deficit to 9-7.

In the seventh, Mansfield kept the Pioneers' hopes alive when he drew a one-out walk from Matlock, went to second on an error by Lake Oswego's third baseman, and then scored on another error by the shortstop.

With the tying run at third, Welch, the Pioneers' No. 2 hitter, worked to a 2-2 count and then couldn't square up a letter-high fastball and that was the ball game.

Playoff picture

From a big-picture perspective, Wednesday's loss dropped Oregon City from No. 26 in the OSAA power rankings to No. 31, putting the Pioneers in a precarious position with seven games remaining and needing to finish somewhere in the top 32, possibly the top 31, to advance to the Class 6A playoffs.

"Once you get to the playoffs, anything can happen," Winkle said. "We can get on a roll in a snap because we've done it before. That's the goal. If we can get to the playoffs, we can make something happen. It's just, are we going to be able to do enough to get there?

"We can't keep losing games, obviously. It just doesn't get any easier. It's not like you can catch a break somewhere in this league. Everybody's good and if you're not playing close to your best, you're not going to win games here."

After wrapping up the three-game series with the Lakers on Friday at Lake Oswego, the Pioneers are scheduled to close out the regular season with series against the two teams directly in front of them in the standings — No. 15 Lakeridge and No. 24 Canby.

"If we don't take care of what we need to take care of, then we don't deserve to make the playoffs," Winkle said. "And if that's the way it goes, we'll move on to the summer and see what we can do next year. But, yeah, we want to definitely make the playoffs."

As for Lake Oswego, the Lakers still have a series against Canby next week, followed by three against Tigard. That might not be enough games for LO to overtake Tualatin, Tigard, and West Linn for the league title, but the more games the Lakers can win over the final two weeks, the better their position in the 32-team playoff bracket.

"Right now, we've just got to concentrate on putting ourselves in the best position we can going into the playoffs," Anders said. "We always want to be playing our best baseball going into the playoffs."

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