Gibbs comes up big for Beaverton, bashes game-winning homer
With his game-winning home run ball safely planted somewhere beyond the right-field fence, Matt Gibbs glided around the first base bag and stretched out his right arm to slap hands with first base coach Scott Dalrymple.
Amped up and ready to rush around the bases after giving Beaverton a 2-1 win over Aloha with his walk-off solo jack in the bottom of the seventh on April 30 at Beaverton High School, Gibbs rounded first, but completely missed the bag in the process.
No biggie, especially for a first-time varsity bomb. The Beaverton left-hander had the presence of mind to retrace his steps, go back to the base for a sure-footed touch and continue his home run around the bags as his teammates waited around home plate to mob him. Following a sweet southpaw level-plane swing that crushed an Aloha fastball out of the park, one could forgive Gibbs for getting a little ahead of himself.
"I was kind of shocked," Gibbs said with a smile. "I was kind of watching the ball and saw Scott's hand go up and wasn't even paying attention. It wasn't the most graceful move, but it felt great. I didn't even feel the ball (hit the bat) and those are the best ones. You just know you squared one up. It couldn't have come at a better time."
Coming off a series loss to Southridge, Gibbs gave Beaverton a big shot in the arm and started the three-game set with Aloha on the right foot.
"It was massive," Beaverton starting pitcher Kellan O'Connor said. "Our team was a little down after the Southridge series, but we came back strong at the end. We're hoping this pushes our guys forward to know we're a solid team and that we can compete with anyone."
Beaverton broke a 0-0 tie in the bottom of the fifth on an O'Connor sacrifice fly to go up 1-0. Yet, Aloha knotted the game back up in the top of the seventh when Warrior sophomore Brandon Cabrera ripped a clutch RBI single to left off Beaverton reliever John Oleson that evened it back up 1-1. Leading off the bottom of the seventh, the Beaverton junior said he was just trying to find a way to get aboard the bags and give his team a chance. His feat was much more than that. Mired in a bit of a hitting funk himself, Gibbs said that huge homer was just what needed to get right.
"Luckily I got my pitch," Gibbs said. "That's big for me because I've been struggling a lot at the plate. It's big for the team too, to pick them up in that situation."
Aloha is about the most snake-bit team in the state right now. The Warriors have five one-run losses in league play including the Beaverton series opener. Coming off a series win over Mountainside, Aloha junior pitcher Nathan Acuavera competed hard and lasted five and two-thirds innings, allowing five hits and one run while striking out four against Beaverton. Where the Warriors waned was with runners in scoring position. In the fifth, sixth and seventh innings Aloha threatened with ducks on the pond, but all it had to show for it was Cabrera's base knock. So, while Acuavera pitched well and the Warriors didn't commit an error, the lack of capitalizing caught up to them.
O'Connor threw a gem, coming within an out of finishing off a complete game shutout on the mound. The lefty's curveball was working and his defense backed him, especially right fielder Cooper Martineau, whose strong right arm prevented at least one sure run from scoring. Lately, O'Connor has been on a roll, throwing a no-hitter against Mountainside to go along with big wins against Tigard and Southridge, the latter of which was a shutout. But that groove almost never came to be. Standing close to a teammate watching Mick Abel warm up from the on-deck circle against Jesuit, O'Connor was accidentally hit in the face by his teammate's bat and suffered a fractured sinus bone. The senior dropped to the ground immediately in a scary freak accident that could've been much worse. Thankfully, the senior returned after missing three games and said he's back to full form.
"I don't really remember any of it, but it was scary, definitely," O'Connor said. "I've been able to come back strong. I've just been happy for the team and hopefully, we can continue this momentum."
O'Connor went six and two-thirds innings, allowing one run on three hits, striking out seven and walking one. Oleson got the win for the Beavers.
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