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West Linn's magical season ends in 5-1 title-contest loss to Clackamas

TIDINGS PHOTO: MILES VANCE - West Linn senior Chase Cosner and the Lions baseball team battled into the Class 6A state championship game on Saturday, but dropped a 5-1 decision to Clackamas at Volcanoes Stadium in Keizer.For a long time — a very long time — it looked like the West Linn baseball team would get everything it wanted from its 2017 season.

The top-ranked Lions, already champions of the Three Rivers League, grabbed an early one-run lead against Clackamas in Saturday's Class 6A state championship game and gave every indication that they could hold that edge, too.

But the second-ranked Cavaliers, the Mt. Hood Conference champs, broke through for two runs in the top of the fourth, tacked on three more in the sixth and rode K.C. Reilly's complete-game pitching performance to a 5-1 victory.

"K.C. was dealing," said West Linn junior catcher Micah Gibson, who went 0 for 3 at the plate but threw out four Clackamas baserunners in the game. "All his pitches were working. He was painting the corners, doing everything. We've got to tip our caps to him. We still didn't hit the way we should, but he had a really good day."

Reilly "pitched a good game," said Lion senior first baseman Jake Porter, who had one of his team's three hits on Saturday. "He's definitely hittable, but our bats just weren't there today. Credit him — he pitched a great game."

"They played really well and we didn't hit the ball," added West Linn senior pitcher/shortstop Tim Tawa, who took the loss after throwing 5 2/3 innings, allowing five runs on nine hits and two walks while striking out five.. "You can't win a championship if you don't hit the ball. Three hits won't do it. Obviously, it wasn't enough."

With the win — Clackamas' 17th straight — the Cavaliers capped their 2017 campaign with a 29-3 overall record, won their first state championship since 2010 and erased the disappointment of the team's 2013 title-game loss to Sheldon.

"They just went out and did it themselves. That's kind of how this bunch is," said Clackamas coach John Arntson. "The one thing I'll say about them is they find ways to win. That's kind of who they are."

"Obviously, today was a big game, but we just played the same brand of baseball that we've played since the beginning of the season," said Jordan Mambaje, the Cavs' senior catcher. "Throughout the playoffs, we just kept saying, 'It's just another game.' I think that helped us to not psych ourselves out or anything."

West Linn, meanwhile, saw its 21-game winning streak snapped and closed its year with a 27-5 overall record. The Lions also finished second in 2015, falling 2-1 to Sheldon.

"I was kind of frustrated today," said junior right fielder Garrett Marioni, who went 0 for 3 at the plate but drove in his team's lone run. "It was kind of a rough day for everybody. At the beginning of the ballgame, I felt really good about it, but we just stopped scoring."

"Honestly, I think we just didn't hit the ball," added senior center fielder Chase Cosner, who singled and scored in the first inning. "I didn't think (Reilly's) stuff was that great, to be honest with you, but … sometimes you show up and just don't have it."

West Linn held the upper hand early on, with Tawa shaking off a first-inning walk to shut out the Cavaliers in the top of the first inning, then seeing his offense come through to score the game's first run.

Cosner got things started in the bottom of the first with a one-out single up the middle, took second on Porter's single between shortstop and third base, moved to third on a wild pitch, then scored when Marioni grounded softly to Clackamas first baseman Greg Mehlhaff.

For the next two innings, it looked like that one run might stand up, too, as Tawa faced just three batters in the second (with Gibson throwing out Reilly on an attempted steal) and only four in the third (this time, with Gibson cutting down Casey Peterson on a steal attempt).

On their own at-bats, though, the Lions were similarly quiet, wasting two Reilly walks in the second and going down in order in the third.

In the top of the fourth, however, the Cavaliers took over. Mehlhaff hit a one-out single to center field, Grant Schoen followed with a hit to right and Mambaje made it three in a row when his single slipped past West Linn second baseman James Marshall into right field to tie the game at 1-1.

The Cavs weren't done, either. After Tawa struck out Reilly for the second out of the frame, pinch hitter Jake Zehr stepped up with a single to center that plated Schoen, gave Clackamas a 2-1 lead and produced what turned out to be the game-winning run.

"I was hunting a fastball," Zehr said. "Tawa was having trouble finding the strike zone with his off-speed stuff, so I was sitting dead-red fastball. That hit was a big momentum-changer, and that's what we needed right there. It felt good. Seeing the ball go through the hole into the outfield … that was a great feeling."

West Linn wasted another Reilly walk — this with two outs in the fourth — then went down 1-2-3 again in the fifth, effectively setting the stage for the Cavaliers' three insurance runs in the sixth. Bubba Jaha led off with a single to right for Clackamas, moved to third on a wild pitch and a groundout, then scored on Schoen's single to center. Mambaje followed with a double to left, Reilly hit a sacrifice fly to center, and Zehr then chased Tawa from the game with a single to center that scored pinch runner Jack Kelly and gave the Cavaliers their final 5-1 margin.

"I thought I was throwing reasonably hard, but sometimes, the other team just hits the ball and I felt like they did that a lot today," Tawa said. "I felt like I didn't miss a ton of spots, I just felt like they were able to hit the ball the other way and they were able to come through when it mattered."

Down to their final two at-bats, the Lions just could not break through against Reilly. He threw a perfect sixth, struck out West Linn's Jonathon Kelly to open the seventh, gave up a bloop double to right by Drew Vannaman, then set down Marshall and Evan King to end the contest.

Afterward, much of the conversation still centered on Reilly's performance.

"Reilly was great today," West Linn coach Joe Monahan said. "He had great stuff, he was hitting his spots with his fastball, he was always around the plate, he kept us off balance, and when we did square up on baseballs, they were right at people. You've got to tip your hat to him, he did a great job."

"We got down in the first inning, but none of us were fazed by it," Reilly said. "We knew we were going to hit the baseball, and we were going to get on West Linn at some point. We did, we scored runs, and the runs gave me that much more confidence that I could go out and finish the job right."

Contact Sports Editor Miles Vance at 503-330-0127 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

— Jim Beseda contributed to this story

TIDINGS PHOTO: MILES VANCE - West Linn senior Tim Tawa (here with junior James Marshall) looks across the field at the celebrating Clackamas players at the end of his teams 5-1 loss to the Cavaliers in the Class 6A state championship game at Volcanoes Stadium in Keizer on Saturday.

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