PREPS: Last PIL baseball team standing, the Grant Generals
A huge pitching performance from a Grant High sophomore. A big home run from one of the Generals' senior mainstays. Plus a lot of little to medium things executed by others in Grant blue.
It all added up to a 5-1 victory Wednesday over visiting Wilson, and it left the Generals as the only Portland Interscholastic League team in the Class 6A quarterfinals.
Sophomore Kenji Lamdin held the Trojans to two hits — a leadoff double in the sixth and a misplayed pop-up that allowed a run to score with two out in that inning.
Grant's lead, thus cut to 3-1, rose to four in the bottom of the sixth, though. Senior Eamonn Quinn led off with a double, and senior Reese Patanjo followed with a home run.
Grant (22-4 and seeded sixth in the playoffs), will go to Eugene on Friday and play at Sheldon (20-7, No. 3 seed) for a spot in Tuesday's Oregon School Activities Association semifinals.
Wilson's season ended at 17-11.
The Trojans came into the 32-team OSAA playoffs seeded 22nd. They had finished third in the PIL, giving co-champions Lincoln and Grant a run into the final week. Wilson went 13-4 in league; Grant and Lincoln were 15-2.
The Generals swept Wilson during the regular season, winning 14-8 and 4-1 on April 4 and 5.
Both teams grew a lot after that and settled into a winning rhythm. Wednesday's second-round game promised to be close. And Wilson had a chance to seize an early lead.
In the top of the first, with Lamdin feeling his way around on the mound, the Trojans drew their only walks and put runners on first and third before a lineout ended the threat.
"The first inning, I felt kind of shaky," Lamdin said. "I was really nervous. I hadn't pitched in a game with that many people (watching). I couldn't locate anything."
After he and the Generals escaped unscathed, the Grant offense rapped out three hits in the bottom of the first to go up 3-0.
Leadoff man Jack Fletcher, a junior, singled to right field. With one out, Lamdin doubled him home from second. The next batter, junior cleanup man Kane Brock, tripled down the right-field line. Brock scored on a sacrifice fly by senior Eamonn Quinn.
"When we're playing well, we usually put up a big number in the first," senior catcher Jacob Velasco said.
The Generals would get five more hits for eight total.
And, Grant's fighting spirit showed in catcher Velasco, who was plunked in the nose by a pitch in the fourth inning.
Velasco went to the dugout and got cotton stuffed in both nostrils, then returned behind the plate for the top of the fifth, to wild applause.
"The first thing I told Coach (Matt Kabza) was, 'I'm not coming out of the game,'" Velasco said. "I just wiped up all the blood and was ready to go."
Velasco and Lamdin, who was runner-up for PIL Player of the Year, were on too good of a roll to miss finishing it off.
"Kenji is already one of the best players in the state," Velasco said. "By the time he's a senior, he'll be the best player in the state."
Lamdin kept the Trojan batters off-balance, even without an overpowering fastball. He struck out five, and only six batters hit the ball beyond of the infield.
"Kenji's got the best changeup I've ever caught, and he mixes that with the curveball," Velasco said. "What you saw from him today, I've been seeing all year."
Except that Lamdin hasn't seen that much game action. He pitched a few innings against Wilson during the regular season but spent much of the PIL slate under wraps because of a sore arm and shoulder.
"I hadn't pitched a full game in about a year," Lamdin said. "I only threw about 15 innings this year, mostly in relief.
"My defense really helped me today."
When the Generals came off the field to go to bat in their half of the sixth, Kabza told them they needed insurance runs. And the players, especially Patanjo, delivered.
First, Patanjo laid off a 3-1 curveball that could have suckered him to swing as it went by and nicked the outside corner.
"I was thinking fastball and just trying to get my timing down," he said.
He got both on the 3-2 offering, and whacked it over the fence in left-center. Not that he was very impressed. He was surprised it carried like it did.
"I hit a pop fly," he said. "I hit it and thought, "Great, I got a double.' The wind helped it, I think.
"It was really exciting to see it leave the yard. I've never hit a home run on such a big stage. I've had five home runs total now over the last two years, but never one from a pop fly like that."
Wilson coach Jeremy Shetler begged to differ at least a bit.
"He's hit big shots before. He's got some strength," Shetler said.
Lamdin said that when Patanjo homered, "I knew we had it. I knew I could get three outs at that point."
Patanjo said he was impressed with senior Cade Conklin's complete-game pitching performance for Wilson.
"I've got to give a lot of credit to him. He threw a lot of strikes, and he had a good curveball and changeup," Patanjo said.
Conklin's double — after Grant muffed a foul pop-up just outside the first-base line — broke up Lamdin's no-no. He scored from third on a high pop by senior Noah Keough that fell between home plate and the mound, with Velasco's lunge failing to come up with the ball.
"Their team came to play," Patanjo said.
But so did Grant, especially in front of its home crowd.
"The best feeling in the world is to get a win for these fans," Velasco said.
It was the Generals' 11th consecutive victory.
"We're riding a pretty big high right now," Patanjo said.
Shetler called the Generals "a solid group and a good program. They throw strikes and play defense, and at the plate they're all tough outs. It's like Coach (Pat) Casey says at Oregon State: 'Pitching and defense win games, and offense determines by how much.'"
The Generals, who were in a hybrid 6A league with Sheldon only three years ago, knew they had to put all aspects of the game together to get past Wilson.
"Our coach told us it's hard to beat a team three times in a row," Lamdin said, "but I had a feeling we were just the better team."