TIED AFTER TWO
Kaleb Edwards walked off the mound as the tailor-made double-play ball skipped to third baseman Garrett Harris, who sidearmed a throw to Drew Sullivan at second.
The St. Helens sophomore pitcher, on the verge of a complete game victory over his school's biggest nemesis, turned and watched as Sullivan fired a seed to Justin Olson at first to nab Scappoose's Noah Packineau for the twin killing. As the first-base umpire balled up his fist signaling the third and final out of the bottom of the seventh inning, Edwards let out an elongated, exuberant yell that echoed off the visiting dugout chain link fence.
This win was a long time coming and couldn't have tasted any sweeter considering the timing, opponent and circumstances.
St. Helens was in urgent need of a victory and got the job done, outlasting host Scappoose 9-7 on Wednesday to even the Class 5A Northwest Oregon Conference series at one game apiece.
"This is the best win we've had all year. These are the ones you'll remember," Edwards said. "When you give your all throughout the entire game, good things happen.
"Everybody's been a little bit down because we're always losing, but now we can build off of this, go out and start playing some good ball and get a couple more."
The Lions' victory set up a pivotal rubber match between the two adversaries at 5 p.m. Friday at St. Helens.
Sullivan is slated to get the ball on the bump for the Lions while Ben Anicker most likely will start for the Indians.
"We should handle them," Scappoose senior first baseman Terrence Lewis said. "We didn't play well at all today. Once we were up, we stayed content, and that hurt us. But this is a rivalry you grow up in. We'll win on Friday and keep the momentum going from there."
Scappoose senior Breeler Mann started and threw quality innings in Monday's series opener against St. Helens and helped pave the way to a 5-1 win in the first meeting of the clubs since the Indians moved up from the 4A Cowapa League this year.
Friday's winner will take the series, along with momentum for the rest of league play and local bragging rights among the two towns well into the summer and beyond.
"Some older guys in town told me, 'I don't care about your guys' record, you just have to beat St. Helens,'" Scappoose senior left-handed pitcher Liam McMullen said. "That's the mentality of this school. We have to win the series. I don't even know any of the (St. Helens players) but there's already a grudge against them. They're probably good kids, but it's the fact I go to Scappoose."
With Edwards pitching all seven innings in Game 2, and with Jacob Klein having gone nearly all the way in Game 1, St. Helens will have a full array of arms at its disposal out of the bullpen for Game 3.
In the two games against Scappoose, the Lions have allowed just two earned runs.
"I love our chances with (Sullivan)," St. Helens coach Jeff Timmons said. "He's a savvy kid. As long as he can get ahead (in the strike count) and throw his pitches and we can get him deep into the game, we'll be alright. I think we have a little more in the tank than (Scappoose) does only using two pitchers in two games. We're ready for it. It's exciting."
With Wednesday's triumph, St. Helens snapped a 12-game losing streak, moved its record to 2-14 overall and won its first NWOC game of the season. For perspective, the Lions scored nine runs combined in their last nine games but got off the schneid by matching that total alone in the "Seven Mile War."
For once, St. Helens found some good fortune, continually putting the ball in play at the plate and peppering the Indians defense with ground balls around the diamond.
Lions sophomore catcher Jacobi Allen set the tone atop the lineup, getting on base three times, with two walks and a single.
Olson had two base hits, including the go-ahead RBI single in the fourth that gave the Lions a 7-6 lead.
With the wind swirling, the sun glaring and the natural dirt infield and grass outfield wreaking havoc on both sides, St. Helens took advantage of three Indian errors to score four unearned runs.
The Lions weren't absolved from the haphazard defense, committing five errors. But with Edwards hitting his spots and getting key strikeouts throughout, St. Helens was able to limit the damage.
"Our defense decided the game for them," Lewis said. "We had too many errors to win a game, period. It's more mental. If we come with a stronger approach, then we should be fine."
Three of the Lions' unearned runs came in the third inning, two with two out as St. Helens grabbed a 5-3 advantage.
Scappoose responded with three runs in the bottom of the third. Logan Travis tripled to lead off the frame and scored on a wild pitch. Gavin Larson drove in Lewis with a single, and Packineau notched an RBI groundout for a 6-5 lead.
Larson went 2 for 3 at the plate to lead Scappoose in hits. His RBI single in the bottom of the fifth evened the score at 7-7.
Scappoose stole five bases during the game; Anicker and Lewis each swiped two.
Defensively, the Indians put themselves in a bind with misplays that gave St. Helens free bases and extra scoring opportunities. Lewis and McMullen were quick to fall on their swords and vowed to make amends in the series finale.
"It sucks to not get beat by a team, but to beat yourselves," McMullen said. "It's hard to win a game when you have that many errors, no matter how many runs you score. Making one or two errors is fine. But you can't let it avalanche.
"The coaches are doing everything they can. It's not on them. It's up to us to make plays on the field."
St. Helens did its damage the old-fashioned way, too — with power and precision. In the top of the fifth, with the game tied at 7-7, St. Helens sophomore Cody McKay was accidentally hit in the helmet with a pitch. Then senior center fielder Chris Beatty smacked a double to the right-center field gap that scored a feet-first sliding McKay going from first to home.
Beatty scored on a wild pickoff attempt to push the lead to 9-7.
With an Indian on second base in the bottom of the sixth, Beatty got on his horse and nabbed the ball on the dead run in deep center, flashing his all-NWOC defensive ability.
Edwards walked Travis intentionally, and Lewis flew out to deep left with runners on first and second to end the threat.
Edwards allowed six hits and seven runs over seven innings, striking out nine.
Travis took the loss for Scappoose. He surrendered four runs on two hits over 4.2 innings, striking out six.
McMullen started the game for Scappoose. He surrendered five runs on six hits over 2.1 innings, striking out two.