West Linn 14U team opens Babe Ruth PNW regional with 9-7 win over North Washington
The West Linn 14U baseball may not have started the Babe Ruth Pacific Northwest Regional Tournament exactly the way it wanted to, but the young Lions finished with a flourish.
West Linn, facing Brewster, Washington — the North Washington representative — in its regional tournament opener, fell behind Brewster early, but used a five-run outburst in the fifth inning to win 9-7 at West Linn High School on Tuesday, July 23.
"It means a lot because that team is probably one of the best teams in the tournament, and for us to get a win is going to help us get to our goal, which is to win the whole thing," said West Linn second baseman Aidan Duea, who went 1 for 2 at the plate with one RBI and two runs scored.
"It was all right. The defense was really doing good and the bats are getting hot," said West Linn's Gabe Howard, who picked up the win after throwing five innings, allowing four runs on five hits and four walks while striking out four. He also went 2 for 2 at the plate with two RBIs and one run scored. "We just need to get the nerves out of the way and start rolling through."
In addition to Howard's solid start on the mound and the team's error-free defense, West Linn built its victory on a solid offensive outing that included 10 hits, with doubles from both Jake Holmes and Ryan VandenBrink.
"I just try to go up to the plate with as (little) stress as possible, knowing that I'm a good hitter and I can get things done for my team," said Holmes, who went 2 for 3 at the plate with three RBIs and one run scored.
That said, Brewster took the early lead with two runs in the top of the first and one in the third to lead 3-1, its first inning highlighted by A.J. Woodward's RBI double to left, while Britt Egbert added a run-scoring double in the third.
West Linn answered with one run in the second when Howard walked with one out and scored on Max Allen's two-out double to center. In the third, West Linn grabbed a 4-3 edge by scoring three times, the first on Duea's bunt and the other two on Holmes' rocket of a double to center field.
"I knew the fastball right down the middle was coming," Holmes said. "It was right after the coaches' meeting on the first pitch so I just swung as hard as I could and hoped for the best."
Brewster came back to tie the game at 4-4 when Woodward hit a leadoff double and scored on a wild pitch in the fifth, but West Linn answered in a big way in its half of the inning.
West Linn opened with a single to center by Drew Ness, Duea added a one-out hit of his own to center and Holmes added a run-scoring bloop single to right. Ryan VandenBrink came through next with a two-run double to left, and after a walk by Jack Fillion, Howard added another two-run double to extend his team's lead to 9-4.
It wasn't all easy down the stretch, however. West Linn relievers issued six walks and gave up three runs in the top of the sixth to see its lead shrink to 9-7 — its edge saved by an inning-ending double play by shortstop Tyson Smith, Duea and Holmes — before Jackson Curdy finally shut the door at the end of the sixth and the seventh.
"At the start, I had a little nerves, but once I got playing, they kind of went away," Duea said.
"I had a little bit (of nerves) — it kind of got to me — but I focused and went back right at them," Howard said.
West Linn also got hits from Drake Gabel and Smith.
Woodward was the only Brewster player with more than one hit, going 2 for 3 with two RBIs and two runs.
West Linn faced Calgary (the Alberta, Canada, representative) on Wednesday, July 24, then was due to face Belgrade (the Montana representative) at 6 p.m. Thursday, July 25, and Klamath Falls (the South Oregon representative) at 3 p.m. Friday, July 26.
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