West Linn dumps Central Catholic 5-3 in Class 6A playoff opener
Survive and advance.
The Lions took a 1-0 lead in the first inning, tacked on two more in the third and two again in the fifth to extend their edge to 5-0 before Central's Christian Cooney smacked a three-run home run in the top of the sixth to account for the final score.
"Win and move on — that's the goal and we were able to do that today," said West Linn senior shortstop Tim Tawa, who went 1 for 2 at the plate and scored twice. "I felt like we controlled the game all the way through. That home run — one pitch, one mistake — and the guy made a good swing. I tip my cap to them, but I really thought we controlled the game from the beginning."
"I've been through a lot of these playoff games (and) the pitcher that starts on the mound sets the tone and he did that really well," said West Linn senior center fielder Chase Cosner, who went 3 for 4 at the plate, homered, scored twice and knocked in one run. "I have played a lot of good teams in the playoffs in the past, and if you want to win, that's how you should play — that the guy on the mound has got to get it done and I thought he set the tone pretty well."
In this case, that starting pitcher was senior right-hander Garrison Ritter and he was golden until Cooney's homer in the sixth. Before that, Ritter had limited the Rams to no runs on just two hits and one walk while striking out six.
"The main thing that was working for me was the outside fastball," Ritter said. "That umpire loved it; he called that every time and I threw it in the same spot. It just worked so I kept doing it. And the slider too, that was perfect every time."
With the win — top-ranked Three Rivers League champion West Linn's 18th straight — the Lions improved to 24-4 overall and advanced to meet No. 16 McNary (a 10-9 winner over No. 17 Tualatin on Monday) in the second round of the state playoffs on Wednesday.
No. 32 Central Catholic, meanwhile, saw its season come to an end at 12-15 after finishing fourth in the Mt. Hood Conference.
Ritter fired a 1-2-3 first inning to start the game, and the Lions rewarded him with an run in the bottom of the frame. Tawa was hit by a pitch from Rams' starter John Hallman to get things started, stole second, took third on Cosner's infield single and scored when Jake Porter hit a sacrifice fly to right field.
Ritter stranded single Central Catholic runners in both the second and third frames, and the Lion offense got back in gear in the bottom of the third. There, Tawa and Cosner led off with back-to-back singles to left, and with two outs, senior Micah Gibson doubled over Cooney's head in center field to score both for a 3-0 lead.
West Linn added two more runs off reliever Patrick Muskat in the bottom of the fifth, the first on Cosner's leadoff homer to left and the second when Porter singled to right and scored later on Jonathon Kelly's groundout.
While Central Catholic's offense had been stymied until then, the Rams got a huge jolt of energy in the sixth. Andrew Blair started things with a one-out walk, Muskat singled to center with two outs and Cooney followed with an opposite-field bomb that cleared the right-field fence easily and cut West Linn's lead to 5-3.
The Rams added back-to-back singles from Cade O'Toole and Dillon McNeil after that, but Ritter struck out Jack Bauccio to end the threat. Then, in the seventh, reliever Rance Pittman struck out two in a perfect seventh inning to end the game.
"The sixth inning really came as a shock," Ritter said. "I kind of lightened up a little bit on them and made a mistake. I walked that that first batter and you can't do that and have it turn out good. It just shows, one lucky swing can make the game close."
That said, the Lions know how to handle big games.
"Our team doesn't really panic that much, especially when we still had a two-run lead," Tawa said. "We just did what we needed to do, stuck to our guns and we were fine. Obviously, it was a setback, but it was minor."
For the Rams, Cooney went 1 for 3 with three RBIs, and O'Toole was 2 for 3. Ritter's final numbers were three runs on five hits and one walk while striking out seven.