The Lakeridge baseball team was in uncharted territory on Wednesday, May 22.
The Pacers were hosting Tigard in the second round of the Class 6A state playoffs, the first time Lakeridge had been that far since this year's seniors were freshman.
But you wouldn't have known it to look at them.
Seventh-ranked Lakeridge grabbed a one-run lead in the bottom of the second, then put the Tigers away with a five-run fourth that fueled their 7-0 win at Lakeridge High School and sent the team on to the state quarterfinals for the first time in more than a decade.
"This is the most fun I've had in my entire life. This is amazing," said sophomore shortstop Cam Clayton, who went 2 for 3 at the plate, scored once and knocked in one. "I can't remember the last time Lakeridge won two games in the playoffs. It's been a long time. It's a good feeling."
For junior pitcher Cooper Justice, who held Tigard to no runs on just one hit and one walk while striking out six, the key was coming in with a plan for each Tiger batter.
"They're a really talented hitting team, but we were ready to go so we came in hot," Justice said. "We had an approach for each different guy — they're all really dangerous hitters but we knew that if we had the right approach, we could get them out. We made it work."
With the win, the team's ninth straight, Lakeridge improved to 20-9 overall after a fourth-place finish in the Three Rivers League and advanced to face No. 15 Central Catholic — a 3-2 upset winner over No. 2 Century in its second-round game — in the state quarterfinalas at 5 p.m. Friday, May 24, at Lakeridge High School.
"It's going to take a lot of trust in our teammates to win on Friday," said Lakeridge senior second baseman Hayden Moore, who went 1 for 1 at the plate and knocked in three runs against Tigard. "We just need to keep doing what we're doing."
"We've got to get ready for the next round," Justice added. "(Central Catholic is) a tough team. They have a good pitcher, but we'll be ready to go."
No. 10 Tigard, meanwhile, saw its two-game winning streak snapped and ended its year at 18-11 after finishing second in the TRL.
While Justice kept the Tigers off the scoreboard throughout the day, the Pacers broke through for the game's first run in the bottom of the second inning when Spencer Santana reached base on a fielder's choice, then scored on Moore's double to center field.
After a scoreless third inning and a 1-2-3 Tigard fourth by Justice, the Pacers broke the game open in their half of the fourth. Brian Hamlin reached on an error to get things started, Justice singled to right and Santana collected a bunt single to load the bases against Tigard starter Lance Kreisberg.
Moore followed with a sacrifice fly to left, Casey Smith singled to load the bases again, and Colin Hardy grounded into a fielder's choice that scored a second run and extended the Pacer lead to 3-0.
Clayton then singled to left to make it 4-0 and also took an extra base on a Tigard error, then both Hardy and Clayton came home when John Taylor singled to center for a 6-0 lead.
Even then, however, the Pacers kept their eyes on the prize.
"The only thing I was thinking was we cannot act like we're up by this much," Clayton said. "We need to act like we're still up by just one. They had the best offense in the league. I've seen them score 16 runs against (Lake Oswego) and that could have happened to us."
Justice and the Pacer defense made sure it did not. After giving up a one-out single to Fletcher Ahl and a walk to C.J. Rivers in the top of the first, Justice set down the final 20 batters he faced in order.
"I felt good. My stuff was working," Justice said. "I'm a little upset about the one hit, but they made some pretty good contact. They're a pretty good hitting team."
The Pacers' final run came in the fifth when Hamlin walked and later scored on another sacrifice fly by Moore.
For the game, Justice also went 2 for 2 at the plate with a walk, Taylor went 1 for 2, walked twice and knocked in two, and Hamlin and Santana both scored twice each.
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