Big blast helps Tigard hold off rival Wolves
TIGARD — The Tigard High School baseball team took a 4-0 lead into the fifth inning of its game with rival Tualatin.
But the Timberwolves, determined to battle back, scored three runs in the top of the fifth off Tiger starting pitcher C.J. Rivers to trim the margin to 4-3 — while also seemingly gaining a whole bunch of momentum at the same time.
However, Tigard, and Rivers, responded in a big way — a really big way.
After giving up three runs in the top of the fifth, Rivers led off the bottom of the frame with a monster home run, deep over the fence in left field.
From there, Rivers went on to get a complete-game pitching victory, helping lead the Tigers to a 5-3 win in the Three Rivers League game, the first of the teams' three-game series, played Tuesday at Tigard High School.
"I think it went pretty well, besides that one inning," Rivers said after the game. "Sometimes, there are games where you have that one inning that gives you trouble, but I thought we did a good job of bouncing back."
"It was really good," said Tigard senior Fletcher Ahl, who drove in the first run of the game. "It starts with C.J.'s performance on the mound. He gets the groove going, and it helps to get the good start like we had."
With the win, Tigard improved to 9-4 in TRL play (14-8 overall), putting the Tigers in second place in the league standings.
"This was big," Ahl said. "It's good to get the first game of the series. We still want to get more wins, so we're not satisfied yet."
"This is really important, considering our ranking right now," Rivers said. "These three games are really important to us."
With the loss, Tualatin moved to 7-6 in TRL games (14-7 overall), putting the Wolves in fourth place in the standings.
"It was a tough game today," said Tualatin junior Campbell Clarke, who doubled in all three of the Wolves' runs. "We came out kinda slow and gave up two runs. That kinda sucked, but we got back, got some momentum and battled back in a big way. It's never over."
Tigard took the early control in Tuesday's series-opener, pushing across a pair of runs in the bottom of the first inning.
Sophomore Josh Schleichardt got things going for the Tigers by drawing a leadoff walk. One out later, Rivers drew a walk. Ahl then singled to right field, driving in Schleichardt. Courtesy runner Tommy Martin then scored on a groundout by senior Cameron Laroche, giving Tigard a quick 2-0 lead.
"We scored early and that set the tone for the whole game, playing against Tualatin, our rivals," Rivers said.
"I think it's really beneficial to get the momentum like that," Ahl said. "It kind of let everyone relax. It really helped us."
Tigard got two more runs in the bottom of the fourth inning. Junior Ethan Clark singled to right field to lead off the frame. Clark then moved to second on a groundout by junior Mikey McNamee, and then scored on a junior Ben Barbee's single to left field, making the score 3-0. Barbee moved to second on a single by senior Caden Stinson, and then scored on a Tualatin throwing error after a wild pitch, upping the margin to 4-0.
But the Wolves answered back in the top of the fifth inning. Senior Gavin Moore walked to lead off the inning, and junior Luke Rogers and senior Cameron Atkinson followed with back-to-back singles, loading the bases with no outs. Clarke then doubled to deep center field, plating Moore, Rogers and Atkinson, cutting the Tigard lead to 4-3.
"That big inning, we got the bases loaded and I was was looking for a fastball first pitch, and I was able to hit it up the middle," Clarke said. "That felt pretty good."
But, just when it looked like Tualatin had momentum, Rivers led off the bottom of the fifth with a blast that easily cleared the fence in left field.
"I was just looking to get on base, but I did a little more than that," Rivers said with a smile. "After they got those three runs, I think that set the tone again. It was a one-run game, and then we got that extra run and that made it a two-run game, and it's harder to score two runs at that point."
"Honestly, we expect that from him, and that shows a lot about him," Ahl said. "Some kids, if they give up three runs, put there heads down and strike out. But he comes up there confident, takes a good swing and hits it out."
The Wolves, tried to come back in the seventh, with Atkinson drawing a one-out walk, but Rivers got a strikeout and a foul-out to end the game.
"Getting to play against our rivals is really fun," Rivers said. "We played spot-on defense. The first couple weeks of the season, our defense was a little shaky, but we've really picked it up since then."
Rivers, in seven innings of work on the mound, gave up three runs on seven hits, while striking out six and walking three.
Ahl went 2 for 3 at the plate with an RBI to help lead the Tigard offense. Rivers, Clark, Barbee and Stinson added one hit apiece.
For Tualatin, Atkinson went 2 for 2 with a walk and a run scored. Senior Kyle Dernedde, freshman Griffin Biggs, senior Cameron Springer, Rogers and Clarke had one hit apiece.
"These are the best games. This is what we live for," Clarke said of the rivalry. "We're going to come out and get them next game. We'll be ready to go. We're going to fix our mistakes and beat them."
The second game of the series will be played Wednesday, starting at 4:30 p.m., at Tualatin High School. The series will conclude Friday with a 4:30 p.m. game at Tigard.
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