West Linn rallies past Tigard 4-2 on J.K Kelly's grand slam
The Tigard baseball team had already beaten West Linn in the first two games of their Three Rivers League series.
And after their loss to Lakeridge in the final game of their series last week, the Lions had dropped three in a row for the first time since spring break.
But West Linn changed all that with just one swing.
Trailing Tigard by two runs in the bottom of the second inning in their Friday, May 3, series finale, it was West Linn senior shortstop J.K. Kelly who came through with that swing. Facing Tigard pitcher Lance Kreisberg with two outs on the board and the bases loaded, Kelly put a charge into a Kreisberg fastball and launched it into deep right field.
Tigard right fielder Fletcher Ahl turned and sprinted toward the fence, reached up and felt the ball land in his glove, then crashed into the fence and the ball popped out of his glove. While Ahl lay momentarily stunned on the turf, West Linn's Matt Kurtin, Clay Masters, Caden Parker and Kelly all came around to score for an inside-the-park grand slam home run that beat the Tigers 4-2 at West Linn High School.
"I saw the right fielder catch the ball and then I saw him hit the wall and drop it, and as I rounded third, I wasn't sure I could make it home but I trusted coach (Joe) Monahan, who was waving me on, that I could make it," said Kelly, who went 1 for 3 with four RBIs. "It was a huge win for us that I think we needed to get."
"I saw him rip that thing, I ran home and I saw (Ahl) running back and I said 'There's no way that's caught,'" said Kurtin, who went 1 for 2 at the plate and scored once. "The guy caught it, hit the fence, (the ball) went up and I thought he caught it again."
The win snapped a three-game losing streak for the Lions and lifted their Three Rivers League to 11-4 and their overall mark to 14-8. Tigard, meanwhile, lost for just the second time in seven games, won the series 2-1 and moved to 8-4 in the TRL — 1 1/2 games behind the Lions — and 13-8 overall.
"I think this week is a real statement week for us," said Tigard senior first baseman C.J. Rivers, who went 3 for 4 at the plate and scored once. "This week kind of tells us what kind of team we are. These guys were ranked No. 2 in the state this week and we dropped them a couple of spots."
"This week for us, we kind of flipped the switch a little bit," said Ahl, who went 2 for 3 at the plate and drove in both Tigard runs. "We've been on and off, a little bit inconsistent, but we kind of had the same approach, the same intensity, the same energy the entire series and we played pretty good the whole series."
The Tigers broke through in the top of the first inning against West Linn starter — and winning pitcher — Kyle Sullivan, getting back-to-back singles by Kreisberg and Rivers, and then a two-out, two-run double to right by Ahl for a 2-0 lead.
"I've also been a little inconsistent, but today was good," Ahl said. "For our team, if someone's down, someone else is up."
Then, after Kreisberg shut down the Lions in the first inning, West Linn broke through in the second. Kurtin got things started with a one-out single to right, and Masters and Parker followed with back-to-back walks to bring Kelly to the plate. Kelly then hammered a Kreisberg pitch to the opposite field, turned on the jets and sped around the bases to score and give his team a 4-2 lead.
"It was in my glove, but when I ran into the fence, I think it popped out," Ahl said. "It was a tough play."
While the pitchers held the upper hand the rest of the way, there was still plenty of excitement. In the third, the Tigers loaded the bases on singles by Josh Schleichardt, Rivers and Cameron Laroche, but saw Sullivan bear down to get the final two outs and strand all three.
In the fifth, the Tigers got another single from Rivers, put Laroche on base with an error and then got a single to right by Ahl, only to see that threat ended by a baserunning error.
In the sixth, against reliever Brandon Alexander, the Tigers opened with an Ethan Clark single and a walk by Mikey McNamee, but West Linn first baseman Zach Bell turned in a double play on Ben Barbee's attempted bunt to short-circuit the threat.
Finally, facing West Linn's Gabe Johnson in the seventh, the Tigers went down 1-2-3, with Johnson getting a pair of fly ball outs and a grounder to Kelly at short.
"I was a little (mad)," Kurtin said. "I wanted some revenge, to get back at Tigard. We pulled it together this game."
"Today was a huge win for us," Kelly added. "It showed how we could come together as a team and win after a tough week. I think that will be what carries us through playoffs."
For the game, Sullivan got the win, throwing five innings and allowing two runs on eight hits and no walks while striking out three. For Tigard, Kreisberg went the distance, allowing four runs on three hits and three walks while striking out four.
No West Linn player had more than one hit, while Rivers and Ahl were the only players with multiple hits for Tigard.