The West Linn 14U Babe Ruth all-stars are alive and well.
West Linn, playing in the 14U Babe Ruth World Series in Demopolis, Alabama, shook off an 0-2 start to its tournament, put together back-to-back victories in must-win games and advanced to championship play on Tuesday.
"The team has been playing very well and we have really come together," said West Linn second baseman/outfielder Max Wright. "The tournament and Demopolis have been amazing."
"We started out slow, but we've picked it up and I hope we stay on that trend," added West Linn catcher/outfielder Jack Fillion, who will move to Boston with his family in the fall "It's my last time playing with these boys and I hope we win it all."
The young Lions (2-2), the third seed from the Black Warrior Division, face Broomall-Newton (3-1), Pennsylvania — the Middle Atlantic champion and the second seed from the Tombigbee Division — on Tuesday. With a win in that game, West Linn would advance to play the Fort Caroline Sun Devils (4-0) — the Southeast Regional champion from Jacksonville, Florida — in the Wednesday, Aug. 14, tournament semifinals.
The Lions are making sure to enjoy every step of the way.
"I think that everybody here has really been amazing to the teams visiting, always shaking our hands and asking how it's been going," said West Linn second baseman/catcher Ryan VandenBrink. "Without all of the support, I don't think the tournament could be going as well as it has been this far. Not only the people running it, but also all of the other people around Demopolis."
Fort Caroline 9, West Linn 2
The West Linn 14U all-stars ran into a buzz saw in their 2019 Babe Ruth World Series opener.
Facing the Fort Caroline Sun Devils — the Southeast Regional champion from Jacksonville, Florida — West Linn trailed by just two runs after three innings, but gave up six in the top of the fourth and couldn't recover, losing 9-2 Friday, Aug. 9, in its tournament opener at Webb Field at the Demopolis Sports Complex in Demopolis, Alabama.
West Linn — the Pacific Northwest champ — managed just five hits off Fort Caroline pitchers William Rollings and Holden Bradshaw, with Max Wright and Jack Fillion each getting one hit and one RBI in the loss.
Rollings threw five innings, allowing no runs on just one hit and three walks and three strikeouts, while teammate James Broughton went 3 for 4 with three RBIs and one run scored, and Malachi Witherspoon was 2 for 4 with one RBI and one run.
West Linn pitchers Max Allen, Aidan Duea and Jackson Curdy allowed 13 hits and no walks while striking out two.
Eagle Pass 9, West Linn 8
While West Linn didn't win its second pool play game — held Saturday, Aug. 10, at Webb Field — the Lions were much, much better and proved they'd gotten their game legs under them.
Facing Eagle Pass, Texas — the Southwest champ — West Linn led by four runs after 4 1/2 innings and one going into the bottom of the seventh, only to see Eagle Pass rally for a tie, force extra innings and win 9-8 in nine innings.
West Linn took control early with three runs in the third (one on Wright's single and two on an error), then added another three in the fourth (two on Ryan VandenBrink's double and one on Fillion's RBI groundout) to lead 6-2.
But Eagle Pass scored nine runs in its final six at-bats to win, pushing across two runs in the bottom of the ninth, the first on a wild pitch and the second on Roberto De La Garza's single to left.
For the game, Duea went 2 for 3 and scored once, while Wright was 2 for 4 with one RBI and two runs scored. WL's Gabe Howard started and threw five innings, allowing six runs (three earned) on three hits and five walks while striking out two.
"Personally, I feel I have played great," Wright said. "I've been hitting and fielding very well."
De La Garza led Eagle Pass at the plate, going 3 for 4 with two RBIs and two runs, while teammate Juan Martinez went 1 for 2 with two RBIs and one run. De La Garza also got the win in relief, throwing 1 1/3 innings and allowing one run on one hit and no walks.
After two tough losses, West Linn woke up in a big way in its 13-2 win over Phenix City — the Alabama representative — at Webb Field on Sunday, Aug. 11.
The Lions led Phenix City just 3-2 after four innings, then broke through for one run in the fifth, six more in the sixth and three in the seventh to leave the Alabama champion far behind.
While winning pitcher Drake Gabel (he threw six innings, allowing two runs on eight hits and one walk while striking out five) kept Phenix City at bay throughout the contest, the Lions' offense took off, with Fillion going 3 for 5 with three RBIs and two runs, Gabel 1 for 3 with one RBI and one run, and Wright going 1 for 3 with two RBIs.
In West Linn's watershed sixth inning, Duea knocked in two runs with a single, Jake Holmes and Wright each doubled home runs, and both Howard and Fillion added run-scoring hits of their own.
West Linn 3, Nashua 0
Then, with their backs to the wall in the final game of pool play — against Nashua, New Hampshire, the New England champion — on Monday, Aug. 12, the Lions stepped up big-time.
Max Allen set the tone with his stellar pitching performance against Nashua — which also entered the game at 1-2 — holding the New England champ to no runs on four hits and two walks while striking out five.
While it wasn't a big day on offense for West Linn, the Lions came through when they had to. They scored once in the bottom of the first when Holmes walked and scored on Fillion's fielder's choice, and twice in the sixth when Duea was hit by a pitch, Holmes singled and both came home on VandenBrink's double to center field.
"It felt really good when my teammates said 'We get another day with Jack' after we advanced to bracket play," Fillion said.
"I have a lot of trust in my team and, hopefully, we can finish well," VandenBrink added.
For the game, VandenBrink went 2 for 2 with two RBIs, and Holmes went 1 for 2 and scored twice.
You count on us to stay informed and we depend on you to fund our efforts. Quality local journalism takes time and money. Please support us to protect the future of community journalism.