West Linn baseball coach Joe Monahan corrals first state championship
West Linn baseball coach Joe Monahan had been close to the mountaintop before.
Monahan, the Lions' coach since 2014, led Southridge to the Class 6A state semifinals in 2013 — where the Skyhawks fell in extra innings — in his only season at the team's helm.
He took West Linn to the 6A title game in 2015, only to drop a 2-1 decision to Sheldon. And Monahan brought the Lions back to the precipice again in 2017 before falling 5-1 to Clackamas in the state championship.
But Monahan is waiting no more.
The Lions' coach, now in his ninth year at the head of the program — including the COVID-19 canceled 2020 season and shortened 2021 campaign — reached the summit of Oregon high school baseball on Tuesday, June 7.
Joe Monahan at West Linn
• Joe Monahan has led the West Linn baseball team since 2014, leading the Lions to a 165-68 overall record, a 95-36 Three Rivers League mark, five TRL championships, three state championship-game berths and another three quarterfinal appearances.
• For his entire head coaching career, Monahan has gone 184-80 overall, including a 19-12 season at Southridge in 2013.
• Monahan and the Lions' 2022 win also snapped a four-game state-championship losing streak, including earlier losses in 1995, 2005, 2015 and 2017.
The fourth-seeded Lions, after finishing second in the Three Rivers League and upsetting top-seeded Lakeridge in the semifinals, brought out their best in the 2022 title contest, routing No. 14 Canby 14-0 in five innings at Volcanoes Stadium in the shortest big-school state championship in Oregon history.
"We play for June every single year," Monahan said. "The last seven championship games, we've been there three times so we knew it was going to happen for us sometime. It was just a matter of when."
The Lions left no doubt in the 2022 finale, pouring across five runs in the bottom of the first inning, three more in the third and six more in the fourth to leave upstart Canby — the Cougars had upset the third-, sixth- and seventh-seeded teams in the playoffs — in the dust.
While Monahan and the Lions hit the sweet spot in their championship-game performance, the West Linn coach knows just how tenuous late-season success can be.
"Some years the ball bounces your way and sometimes it doesn't because there's a lot of good teams in the state, especially in our league," Monahan said. "You've just got to put your run together at the right time and have a group of kids that believe in each other like this group."
As Monahan said, the Lions got hot at the right time, finishing the year with eight straight wins and ending the 2022 season with a 25-7 overall record after placing second in the Three Rivers League.
West Linn — led by all-league seniors Jeremy Levasseur, Spencer Sullivan and Kace Naone — closed out the TRL season with a three-game sweep of Tigard, then rolled to four straight state playoff wins.
The Lions opened with an 8-3 win over No. 29 Glencoe, shut out No. 13 Sprague 4-0 in the second round, edged No. 21 Sheldon 5-4 in the quarterfinals, upset top-ranked Lakeridge 5-4 in the semifinals and closed out their best season in 40 years by routing Canby 14-0 in the championship.
"This year, we had a lot of good hitters in our lineup, but we really hadn't strung together four or five guys being hot at the same time," Monahan said. "It's always been one or two … and a good, disciplined approach at the plate, so we'd take our walks, take our hit batters and put the ball in play. But we haven't really had five six seven hitters put it together in a game this year."
They hadn't, that is, until winning their first state title since 1982 and securing Monahan's first crown.
"They played their best game in the biggest game in the championship game and I couldn't be more proud of them," Monahan added.
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