Tigard rallies, and then holds on, for playoff win
TIGARD — The Tigard High School baseball team picked up its first postseason win since the 2014 season.
But, to get that win, the Tigers had to overcome an early deficit and then withstand a late-game threat.
Tigard, doing both of those things, got a 7-6 victory over South Medford in a Class 6A state playoff first-round game played Monday at Tigard High School.
"It's huge. We finally got a playoff win," said Tigard senior Lance Kreisberg, who doubled and drove in a run in the victory. "It's been awhile."
"It's really big. It's big for us going forward," said Tigard junior shortstop Ethan Clark, who tripled and drove in two runs. "This is a big movement for us, getting this first win out of the way."
With the loss, South Medford, the No. 2 team out of the Southwest Conference, and the No. 23 team in the final OSAA power rankings, finished its season with a final overall record of 13-14. Tigard, the No. 2 team out of the Three Rivers League, and the No. 10 team in the power rankings, improved to 18-10 on the season. The Tigers also advance to play at Lakeridge in a state playoff second-round game, set to start at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday at Lakeridge High School.
"I feel like the nerves will be gone for our next game," Kreisberg said. "We'll be ready."
South Medford seemed to be ready to go in Monday's playoff opener. The Panthers scored three runs in the top of the first inning, with the big hit of the frame being a two-run double by senior Bennett Smith.
Tigard got one of those runs back in the bottom of the inning. Tiger senior Fletcher Ahl hit a one-out single to center field. He then moved all the way to third base on a wild pitch, and then scored on another wild pitch, cutting the lead to 3-1.
The Tigers then scored three runs in the bottom of the third inning to take the lead. Senior Caden Stinson got things started with a one-out double to center field. One out later, Ahl singled to right, driving in Stinson. Senior C.J. Rivers and Kreisberg followed with back-to-back RBI doubles, giving Tigard a 4-3 lead.
The Tigers added three more runs in the bottom of the fifth inning. Ahl and Rivers hit back-to-back singles with one out in the frame. Then, with two outs, Clark tripled to right, driving in both Ahl and freshman courtesy runner Tommy Martin. Clark then scored on a single by senior Cameron Laroche, giving Tigard a 7-3 advantage.
"One person got a hit, and we just kept feeding off of that," Clark said of the two big innings. "We just kept hitting."
"We just got baserunners. That really helped," Kreisberg said. "We didn't try to do it with just one swing. We collectively worked together, and that's what brought us back."
But South Medford, getting a three-run home run from Smith in the top of the sixth inning, quickly trimmed the margin to 7-6.
The Panthers then had another threat in the top of the seventh. With one out in the frame South Medford senior Trevor Marthowski reach on an infield single. Junior Steven Ledendecker was then hit by a pitch, putting the tying and go-ahead runners on base.
The next batter, sophomore Bennett Thompson, hit a hard grounder up the middle. But Rivers, Tigard's pitcher, snagged the ball and made a quick throw to Clark at second base, and then Clark made a throw to first to complete and game-ending double play.
"I knew as soon as that ball was hit to C.J., that we were turning it," Clark said.
"Our hitting was really good, and C.J. (Rivers) really competed throughout, and we just played good team baseball today," Kreisberg said.
Ahl helped lead the Tigard offensive attack, going 3 for 4 at the plate with three runs scored and an RBI. Rivers went 2 for 4 with a run scored and an RBI. Sophomore Josh Schleichardt, Kreisberg, Clark, Stinson and Laroche had one hit apiece.
Rivers, in getting a complete-game pitching win, gave up six runs on seven hits, while striking out three and walking three.
For South Medford, Smith went 2 for 3 at the plate with a double, a home run and five RBIs.
Lakeridge, the No. 4 team out of the Three Rivers League, and the No. 7 team in the power rankings, brings a 19-9 record into Wednesday's second-round playoff game. The Tigers won two games in the teams' three-game league series earlier this season.
The winner of Wednesday's game at Lakeridge will meet either Century or Central Catholic in a quarterfinal state playoff game on Friday.