Baseball: La Salle Prep puts hammer down on St. Helens, 14-1
The La Salle Prep Falcons went for the early knockout punch against St. Helens Friday and caught the Lions square on the chin.
Shea MacNeela's two-run double keyed an eight-run second inning that carried the Falcons to a 14-1 Northwest Oregon Conference blowout win over the Lions at La Salle Prep in Milwaukie.
MacNeela added a solo homer in the third inning and Nolan Grogan, Isaac Kersey-Bronec, Spencer Paugh, and Patrick Raschio finished with two hits each as the Falcons (13-9, 12-3 NWOC) completed a sweep of the three-game series with the Lions and climbed back into a first-place tie with Wilsonville.
"We're starting to peak at the right time," Falcons coach Nate Fogle said. "Early in the season, we were in all those games and we just couldn't finish them off, where I think now, guys are really starting to dial it in a little bit and we're getting in the right groove at the right time."
La Salle closes out the regular season next week with a three-game series against last-place Milwaukie, while Wilsonville has a three-game set with Scappoose.
The Falcons took two of three in their series with Wilsonville earlier, so if the two teams finish with the same league record, La Salle owns the tiebreaker and would draw the league's top seed into the Class 5A state playoffs.
St. Helens, on the other hand, is on the outside looking it at a possible playoff spot, trailing Hillsboro by three games in the race for the league's fourth and final postseason berth with three games remaining.
The good news for the Lions (6-17, 5-10) is that the three games they have left are against the team they're trying to catch — Hillsboro.
"We've still got a chance by sweeping them next week," Lions coach Jeff Timmons said. "That's the one nice thing we've got going for us. We're not hoping and praying that we have to beat Wilsonville or that Milwaukie has to beat somebody else. It's all on us.
"We're just going to show up on Monday ready to go to work and then Tuesday we hope to have a little better effort than we had today and keep plugging away."
St. Helens played shorthanded Friday, missing a couple of reserves who weren't available because of job commitments and leaving Timmons with only 10 players on a day when the early-afternoon temperature peaked at 90 degrees.
The Lions held their own in the first inning, but ran into trouble in the second when La Salle sent 11 batters to the plate against starting pitcher Drew Sullivan and scored eight runs on seven hits, a walk, a pair of wild pitches, and two St Helens' errors.
"After winning the first two games of the series, some teams kind of let off, but we got on them in the second inning and that really kind of set the tone," Fogle said. "So, that was big.
"We didn't want a close game into the fifth inning and then have to really start pressing a little bit, so it was nice that we came ready to play, especially on a hot day."
St. Helens scored a run in the third when Garrett Harris reached on an error and came around on Jacobi Allen's one-out double to left.
From there, the Falcons piled on with McNeela's solo homer in the bottom half of the third, two more run in the fourth, and three in the sixth.
The Lions could have waved the white flag trailing 11-1 after batting in the fifth, but they wanted to keep playing.
"After a game like that, we've just got to shake it and move on," Timmons said. "The one big inning was deflating, especially when it's hot like this, but I liked our character. I mean, there's a 10-run rule if you want it, but my guys said, 'No, let's keep playing. We want to get our hacks in.' So, they kept after it.
"It was a struggle today. We're just looking forward to our chance next week and it's nice that we get to play the team that we're chasing."