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The West Linn Baseball 12-U Select team returns to Cal Ripken World Series for second straight year

COURTESY PHOTO: FINLEY DICKSON - West Linn Baseball 12-U Select made their second straight trip to the Cal Ripken World Series this month.Grit, more than anything else, sets the boys of the West Linn Baseball 12-U Select team apart from other squads across the country. According to head coach Tyler Toney, that grit was on full display as the team worked its way to its second straight Cal Ripken World Series in Branson, Missouri.

Toney called the boys, who will all start seventh or eighth grade at Athey Creek and Rosemont Ridge middle schools in the fall, "grinders."

"No matter what, they grind," Toney said. "They put in the work and do it with a smile on their face."

COURTESY PHOTO: FINLEY DICKSON - The Lions went 3-1 at the World Series, suffering elimination based on the tournament's tie-breaking rules. The hard work led them not only to their second straight World Series appearance, but a 3-1 record at the tournament, which took place earlier this month. Despite the winning record, the complexities of the tournament's tie-breaking system meant the team did not advance after four games.

But for catcher and first baseman Tanner Toney, the highlight of the tournament came after they were eliminated, when they played an exhibition game against the team from Australia.

"It was super cool to play an international team, and we traded jerseys with them," Tanner said.

Other significant moments from the tournament include the Lions' 19-0 shutout of the host team, Branson, Missouri, in game four.

Coach Tyler also highlighted the shared no-hitter of Tyler Holmes and Cohen Bissel in game two, a 1-0 Lions win over Pacific Southwest.

For middle infielder, pitcher and third baseman Cash Dickson, one particular play that stood out was his backhand grab at third base, which the game's announcers said was reminiscent of St. Louis Cardinals third baseman Nolan Arenado.

The Lions also beat Janesville, Wisconsin, 2-0 in game one and fell 3-5 to Prince George, Maryland, in game three.

COURTESY PHOTO: FINLEY DICKSON - The team and their families are a tight-knit group after playing together for three years. As much as he enjoyed competing, Tanner said he had just as much fun hanging out with his teammates at the hotel pool. The team, which is tightly knit after playing together the last three years, also enjoyed exploring the area around Branson.

According to Coach Tyler, the closeness of the team extends beyond the players to their families as well. During the pandemic, while most teams didn't have a place to play, the families of the team rallied together to find field space so the boys could keep playing.

"All of our parents found resources to allow their kids to keep getting better, and I think that made a huge difference to our team," Tyler said.

This dedication and closeness between families, along with the grit of the players, helped spur the team to a 155-37 record over the past three years.

The team hopes to stick together next season, and possibly make a third appearance at the World Series.

"We just want to play together and whatever happens happens," Tanner said.

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