West Linn baseball routs Lake Oswego 11-1 in five innings Wednesday
There's never a wrong time to make a good first impression.
Just ask the West Linn baseball team.
The Lions — a day after opening the 2022 Three Rivers League season with a win over Lake Oswego — made it two in a row with a devastating first inning on Wednesday, April 6. West Linn pounded out six hits, added three walks and poured across seven runs in the top of the first inning to set the table for its 11-1 win in five innings at Lake Oswego High School.
"We didn't have any idea (it would be like this), not really, but it blew up for us in the first inning," said West Linn sophomore pitcher Gabe Howard, who threw five innings and limited the Lakers to one run on three hits and one walk while striking out seven. "We're all happy. We were happy to be up seven in the first inning. It makes you comfortable."
"We have a lot of confidence in our guys," said senior shortstop Kace Naone, who went 1 for 3 at the plate and scored once with a two-run double in the first inning. "The bats have been hot. We were just looking for fastballs and we crushed them."
With the win, West Linn's fourth straight, the No. 7 Lions improved to 2-0 in TRL play and 7-2 overall. No. 32 Lake Oswego, meanwhile, lost for the fourth straight time and fell to 0-2 in league play and 2-6 overall.
"I feel like we need to jump on the bats early and get runs early," said Lake Oswego senior third baseman Andrew Wong, who went 0 for 2 at the plate but turned in two strong defensive plays in the loss. "That's what they did to us and I feel like the energy level kind of drops when you're down that much."
"We had a talk before, just about confidence and stuff, but we didn't really follow through with it," said senior first baseman Kellen Krebs, who went 1 for 2 at the plate and scored once. "We just need a good practice tomorrow, sleep (on it) and forget about it."
The Lions — who scored all 11 of their runs with two outs — opened the game at a dead sprint. After a one-out walk by sophomore Ryan VandenBrink, senior Spencer Sullivan doubled to right and Naone followed with a two-out, two-run double to center.
But that was just the beginning of a very long West Linn at-bat. From there, junior Drake Gabel walked and senior Jackson Curdy singled to center to plate Naone. Senior Jordy Tawa walked next and junior Tyson Smith followed with a two-run single to center to make it 5-0.
Next up, junior Max Wright blooped an RBI single to center and VandenBrink added an infield hit to make it 7-0 before LO senior pitcher Luke Brauner ended the frame on a fielder's choice by Sullivan.
"We've had a disciplined approach all year so far," Naone said. "We've got a whole lot of guys who can swing the sticks. It's nice to know."
"We've been talking about … following through with two outs and making sure we do stuff on offense so the pitchers don't have to worry so much because the pressure is on them if we don't swing the bats well," Krebs said.
The Lakers came back with a single run in the bottom of the first when Krebs led off with a walk, moved up on a single by junior Grant Maxwell and an out, then scored when senior Elijah Maeda grounded out to make it 7-1.
After that auspicious start, however, the score stayed at 7-1 until the top of the fifth, with Howard and Lake Oswego sophomore reliever Jonah Barkoff each throwing three straight scoreless innings.
Maxwell turned a double play to keep West Linn at bay in the second, the Lakers got another double play in the third when Lion senior Jeremy Levasseur struck out and was also called for interference, and Barkoff stranded one runner in the fourth.
Howard, meanwhile, mixed his slider, fastball and changeup to great effect, allowing just two hits and two baserunners in those three frames, while striking out five Lakers.
But West Linn broke through again in the top of the fifth, with Curdy drawing a two-out walk, Tawa singling to left and Levasseur reaching base after being hit by a pitch. From there, Wright hit a two-run single to center and VandenBrink followed with a double to left that brought home two more runs and pushed his team's lead to 11-0.
Howard then set the Lakers down in order in the bottom of the fifth to seal the win.
"I got into a rhythm," Howard said. "The slider was working 100% — swings and misses, that's all it does. Then it was fastballs — blow it by them —Â and you mix it in with the changeup and they can't hit it."
For their part, the Lakers promised to learn from the loss and come back strong.
"Friday is definitely going to be different," Krebs said. "We just need to come together as a team and spend some more time on what our goals are for the season."
For the game, Wright and VandenBrink both went 2 for 3 with three RBIs and one run scored, Sullivan was 2 for 3 with one run and Tawa was 2 for 2 with two runs. For Lake Oswego, Barkoff threw four innings, allowing four runs on five hits and four walks while striking out three.
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