West Linn survives Tualatin test in OIBA tourney opener
There are no freebies. There are no gimmes. There no days off.
Not even in summer league baseball.
The West Linn baseball team found that out in its opening game of the Oregon Independent Baseball Association playoffs. The Lions, champions of the Pesky Division, grabbed a five-run lead against Tualatin on Friday, saw Tualatin rally back into the lead, then finally came back to win 7-6 in nine innings at Lake Oswego High School.
West Linn then advanced to the playoff semifinals where it dropped a 2-1 decision to Grant; for more on that game, see the accompanying story.
"I think it's just a team thing," West Linn's Matt Kurtin said of his team's comeback win. "They shut us out a little bit but we … knew our potential that we could come back."
"What really matters is clutch situation execution. That's what really wins games," said pitcher Zach Bell, who threw the game's first five innings, homered and also got the walk-off hit in the bottom of the ninth. "It's baseball. You've got to battle back in all situations no matter what."
The Lions started fast against Tualatin pitcher Jett Searle, collecting three hits and scoring four runs in the bottom of the first inning.
Caden Parker got things started with a single to left, Cormac Duffy followed with a hit to right and Bell walked to load the bases. Searle then balked Parker home, Kurtin singled to plate Duffy, Parker Stevenson drove in a run with a ground ball and Chase Bartley's sacrifice fly to center made it 4-0.
The Lions tacked on another run in the third when Bell homered to left, and Bell seemed to have the game well in hand on the mound. He gave up a double in the second inning but faced just one batter over the minimum through four frames before trouble arrived in the fifth.
There, Tualatin broke through in a big way, sending 11 batters to the plate, pounding out eight hits — including four in a row twice — and scoring six times to grab a 6-5 lead. Highlights for Tualatin included doubles by Searle, Luke Rogers, Joey Myers and Campbell Clarke, and RBIs by Rogers, Myers, Lucas Diggins, Clarke, Cameron Atkinson and Gavin Moore.
"Sometimes, your stuff isn't working," Bell said. "You hit your spots but (big innings) just happen in the sport of baseball. It's not easy."
Kurtin took over for West Linn in the top of the sixth and kept Tualatin off the scoreboard the rest of the way, allowing just two hits and two walks while striking out five in four innings of work.
That said, the Lions didn't have much offensive success after the third inning, either. Searle left the game for reliever Joey Myers at the start of the fifth inning and Myers kept West Linn at bay until the seventh.
In the seventh, Parker had a one-out single to right, then tried to score on Duffy's double to right but got thrown out at the plate. Duffy took third on that play, and with two outs, scored on Kurtin's hit to left to make it 6-6 and force extra innings.
Then, finally, the Lions secured their win in the ninth. Myers walked Adam Simshauser to open the frame, walked Duffy with one out and Bell followed with a hard line drive to left field off new Tualatin pitcher Cam Springer that ended the game.
"After a big comeback, you don't want to get your head down or else you've got no chance," Bell said. "We kept our hopes up, kept our heads up, kept working hard, battled at the plate and got it done."
For Kurtin, preparing for his first serious varsity playing time next spring, the summer season has been invaluable.
"If I was to give any advice to the people coming up, it would be just stick with it," he said. "Last year, I didn't play very much at all, and this game, I pitched, I closed it out and got the tying run."
For the game, Parker went 2 for 4 and scored once, Duffy was 3 for 4 with two runs scored, Bell went 2 for 2 with two RBIs, one run and three walks, and Kurtin was 2 for 4 with two RBIs and one run.
For Tualatin, Clarke and Atkinson were the only players with more than one hit, each going 2 for 5 at the plate with one RBI and one run scored.