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The Pacers stay hot as they prep for the playoffs and pursuit of a championship.

PMG PHOTO: MILES VANCE - Lakeridge catcher Mason Utech makes a throw during his team's 3-2 win over McMinnville at Lakeridge High School on Wednesday, May 18.The Pacers have done the work.

The Lakeridge baseball team did it during their tough-as-nails non-league schedule. They did it again during Three Rivers League play, fighting off challenges from the league's best to claim the 2022 TRL crown.

And the second-ranked Pacers did it again on Wednesday, May 18, when they came from behind to beat No. 3 McMinnville 3-2 in non-league play at Lakeridge High School, a win that guaranteed them home field advantage throughout the playoffs, which start on Monday, May 23.

"It's just about taking it one game at a time (in the playoffs)," said Lakeridge senior shortstop Dawson Santana, who went 2 for 3 at the plate and handled three chances without an error. "It's that and continuing to work hard every day, just doing the little things, staying within ourselves and not focusing too much on the wins themselves. … That's what we've got to do. It will take us far."

"We just have to bring energy every day and all day at practice," said senior pitcher Zach Johnson, who picked up the win after throwing seven innings, allowing two runs on three hits and two walks while striking out 11. "Usually, if practice is good, we're going to have a good game. We've just got to bring it at practice every day."

"We need to have very solid pitching and we need to keep hitting the ball hard," added junior first baseman Paul Wilson, who went 1 for 2 with a double and reached base three times. "If we keep doing what we're doing, we'll get there."

With the win, the team's ninth straight, the Pacers improved to 22-5 overall; they won the TRL with a 15-3 mark that included a three-game sweep of second-place West Linn last week. McMinnville, meanwhile, saw its 17-game winning streak snapped and fell to 25-2 overall; the Grizzlies won the Pacific Conference earlier with a 17-1 record.

After two scoreless innings at the start of Wednesday's contest — McMinnville got five strong innings from junior starter Parker Guinn — the Grizzlies grabbed a 1-0 run in the top of the third when senior Kade Weeks bombed a two-out homer over the fence in right-center field.

The Pacers came back in the bottom of the frame with one run of their own when senior Zander Groman walked, took second on a single to left from Santana, moved up on a groundout and scored on a McMinnville error.

After a scoreless fourth, McMinnville pushed ahead 2-1 in the fifth when junior Evan Crawford blooped a double to center field and scored when Tyler Thorkildson followed with a hard double to left-center.

Guinn stranded two runners in the Pacers' half of the fifth, but after McMinnville came up empty in the sixth, Lakeridge took over. Facing Weeks in the bottom of the sixth, senior Alou Dechard led off with a walk, took second on a wild pitch, third on senior Gus Rogers' sacrifice bunt and scored when senior Beau Spiekerman blooped a single to shallow center over the Grizzlies' drawn-in infield.

With the game tied at 2-2, Lakeridge senior Jack Ulwelling bunted Spiekerman to second and Groman followed with a hard ground ball to shortstop that took a wild hop past sophomore Eli Rolfe and allowed Spiekerman to score.

Johnson then threw a 1-2-3 seventh to seal up the win.

"It gives us a lot of momentum," Wilson said. "It was just a great game today."

"There's no better feeling. The weather just got nice. The environment is awesome," Santana said. "Everybody was coming out, working hard, just doing what we've been doing."

And it didn't hurt that Johnson brought his "A" game against the Grizzlies.

"I felt great," he said. "In warm-ups, when I was working with my catcher, I was feeling great, loose and I was ready to throw gas."

For the game, Rogers went 2 for 2 at the plate, while Groman went 1 for 2 and scored once. For McMinnville, junior Evan Crawford went 1 for 3 and scored once, while Weeks went 1 for 2, drove in one run and scored another. Guinn threw five innings, allowing one unearned run on six hits and two walks while striking out two.

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