West Linn advances to semifinals with 8-1 win over Gresham
The heart of the West Linn batting rotation is arguably the best in the state, but it was the Lions' nine-hitter that played a huge role for them in the quarterfinals.
West Linn third baseman Evan King got on base in all three plate appearances and scored two runs in West Linn's 8-1 victory over Gresham on Friday afternoon.
With the win, the Lions advance to the semifinals where they will host Beaverton at 5 p.m. on Tuesday.
"The top of our lineup is so strong, so my mentality is to go up there and find a way to bring the next guy up," King said. "I will take a lot of pitches and do whatever I can to get on base...I am glad that I was able to get on today to bring up the top of the order with two outs. I feel like that was what really opened up the game for us."
For Gresham, it was a disappointing finish to a fantastic season.
"I thought we played well...It was just a couple mistakes that extended some innings," Gresham head coach Ryan Miller said. "You can't give good teams like that extra at-bats. (West Linn) took advantage of the situations they were in. That is a good ball team."
The Lions got on top early when Garrett Marioni lined an RBI double down the left field line in the bottom of the first, scoring Chase Cosner from second and putting West Linn up 1-0.
Gresham struggled to pick up West Linn soft-throwing southpaw Ryan Driscoll in the first two frames, but the Gophers posed a real threat to rally for multiple runs in the top of the third.
Thanks to three straight singles by Shemar Lenox, Brett Falkner and Tyler Linch, Gresham loaded the bases with nobody out and had the middle of the Gophers order due to the plate.
Catcher Ezra Samperi hit a sacrifice fly to deep center field to tie the score at 1-1, but that would be all the damage that the Gophers could muster.
"It was rough. We had bases loaded and nobody out. We got one job done, but we weren't able to move anybody over," Linch said. "(West Linn) made some good plays when they needed to. We hit the ball well, it just went in their direction too much."
Driscoll ended up going four innings while giving up just three hits and the one earned run. Driscoll was replaced by the harder throwing right-hander Rance Pittman, who closed out the final three innings while only surrendering one hit.
"Anytime somebody sees a 74 mph fastball and then sees one from a different guy that goes 88, it's a big difference," West Linn head coach Joe Monahan said. "As long as both pitchers have a second pitch and their hitting their locations...They can keep (Gresham's) big hitters from doing damage."
After giving up a run in the first inning, Gresham pitcher Jacob Biesterfeld looked like he had settled into the game by getting through the next two innings. But a mistake in the bottom of the fourth changed the outlook of the contest.
With two outs and a man on third, King stepped to the plate to face Biesterfeld. After working the count to full, King drew a walk after watching a fastball just miss the outside part of the plate.
The free pass brought up Tawa — one of the most dangerous hitters in the state — with two runners on. Tawa came up in the second inning with two baserunners after a King walk, but lined out to Linch to end the inning. This time, however, Tawa would come through for West Linn.
After watching two straight balls, Tawa scalded a line drive double off the fence in centerfield, scoring both runners and giving West Linn the 3-1 advantage.
"I thought they might intentionally walk me with a base open at second. But they gave me a chance to hit and I was able to take advantage," Tawa said. "(Biesterfeld) is a great pitcher, he just made a couple pitches that we were able to hit hard."
It was a frustrating sequence for Coach Miller and the Gophers.
"We felt like we threw strike three there (against King). This is a game where you talk about the human element and you have to live with the calls that the umpire makes," Miller said. "We tried to pitch around (Tawa)...We threw him a 2-0 curveball and he sat on the pitch and hammered it off the wall...You have to tip your cap to him and go get the next guy."
Biesterfeld pitched into the sixth inning, but had to be taken out due to his pitch count after a two-out single from King. From there, things went from bad to worse for the Gophers.
With two walks, a hit-batsmen, a two-base error and a bloop double, West Linn blew the game open and took a commanding 8-1 lead. And the rally once again started with King getting aboard.
"Evan does such a great job flipping the lineup for us," Tawa said. "Whenever I am in the on-deck circle, I am preparing for him to get on base."
Even with being handed the loss, Biesterfeld was able to reflect on what this season meant to him and the Gresham baseball program.
"I am very sad that it's over, but I am so grateful to play with the guys I got to play with this year. The seniors have made this baseball team over the last two years and those kids laid the foundation for future success for this program," Biesterfeld said.