West Linn 14U stars fall short in World Series quarterfinals
You can at least say this about the West Linn 14U Babe Ruth all-stars — the Lions went down swinging.
West Linn, playing in the quarterfinals of the 14U Babe Ruth World Series in Demopolis, Alabama, on Tuesday, Aug. 13, rallied from a three-run deficit in the seventh inning against Broomall-Newtown, Pennsylvania, and closed within one run before finally seeing their Series experience end in a 3-2 loss on Webb Field at the Demopolis Sports Complex.
The Lions, after winning their previous two World Series games and offsetting two early losses, ended their run with a 2-3 record.
"We've been in that situation a dozen times this year, in championship games or really important games, and there's no quit in this group and that's why it was so fun to coach them this year," said West Linn coach Danny Nance. "They just give it everything they got. They compete."
While Broomall-Newtown — the Mid-Atlantic champion — ended up on top Tuesday, both teams got dynamite pitching performances in the contest. Broomall-Newtown saw Justin Brennan pick up the win, throwing all seven innings and allowing just two earned runs on four hits and two walks while striking out eight.
"Hats off to their pitcher — he did a really good job," Nance said. "He didn't overwhelm us with his velocity, but what he did do was he was hitting his spots. He was moving the ball around so he did a fantastic job. He kept us off-balance all game."
But West Linn's Gabe Howard was very nearly as good, putting together a complete game of his own, throwing six innings (Broomall-Newtown didn't bat in the bottom of the seventh) and giving up just three runs (one earned) on four hits and two walks while striking out three.
"(Howard) pitched well enough to win. He did a great job for us," Nance said. "It's just that we made some mistakes that led to some unearned runs that cost us."
After a scoreless first inning, Broomall-Newtown broke through with two runs in the bottom of the second, with Jake Micewski reaching base by error, Joshua Freiling getting on with a one-out walk and Micewski scoring on another West Linn error. Then, with two outs, Brennan singled to left and knocked in Freiling for a 2-0 lead.
"We didn't make those kind of mistakes (the rest of) the tournament," Nance said. "We played pretty clean defense and our bats, we were averaging six, seven runs a game. But that's baseball, right? Baseball is a cruel game. It will humble you real quick."
Broomall-Newtown then extended its lead to 3-0 in the bottom of the third when Alex Bruno led off with a double to right field, took third on Jonny Small's single and scored when Micewski singled through the left side.
For its part, West Linn stranded Aidan Duea at third base in the top of the first, left another runner on base in the third and two more in the fifth before finally coming alive in the top of the seventh.
There, Jake Holmes led off with a triple to left field, Ryan VandenBrink was hit by a pitch and Holmes scored on Danny Onion's groundout. Howard then grounded out to first base to plate VandenBrink before Brennan got Max Wright on a fly ball for the game's final out.
"I don't know if Broomall was a better team — I think we were equally matched — it's just they had a better day than we did," Nance said.
For the game, Holmes went 2 for 3 and scored once, while Micewski was 1 for 3 with one RBI and one run scored, and Bruno went 1 for 3 and scored once.
The rest of the West Linn team included Drake Gabel, Tyson Smith, Dylan Nance, Jack Fillion, Jackson Curdy, Max Allen and Drew Ness, and coaches Don Gabel, Aaron Howard and Kevin Vandenbrink.
Regardless of Tuesday's result, West Linn's players and coaches left proud of their efforts and appreciative of the experiences they shared.
"We're top-six in the country, and when there's 1,200 teams that start out on this journey in April and to finish in the top six, that's a big accomplishment," Nance said.
"These boys love playing baseball, but they love playing baseball together. They love each other. It's something that we've really tried to build his team chemistry and these kids are super tight. There's a couple boys that are moving away, we have a couple boys that are going to different schools next year and so this is really their last time to play together and I think they were probably more disappointed in that than how we actually finished in the tournament."
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