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Legion season comes to abrupt end

by: Vern Uyetake, West Linn infielder Ryan Barnes, top right, avoids an oncoming baserunner to compete a double play during the league baseball tournament this week in Canby. West Linn won that first-round game 13-0 over Milwaukie. Eliot Smith, left, closed out the victory on the mound.

Last year, West Linn's American Legion season ended surprisingly after just two games in the metro area playoffs. This year, the Lions didn't even make it that far.

After an up-and-down league season in which the Lions had to rely on a large number of underclassmen, there was a chance for redemption at this week's league tournament in Canby. But, after barely qualifying for that tournament, the Lions were forced to negotiate a virtual minefield of teams in order to advance to the next stage.

With a tournament format that rewards the best teams and penalizes the rest, West Linn found itself in danger of having its season end in the first round. Fortunately, Milwaukie didn't prove to be much of a obstacle, even when the Lions were severely shorthanded. West Linn breezed through that game by a 13-0 score in five innings.

That set up Tuesday's crucial second-round game with Clackamas. A victory would have given West Linn a shot at the league's third seed in the upcoming metro area playoffs.

For most of the game, West Linn appeared to be at least Clackamas' equal. But the Lions had trouble stringing hits together and wound up losing 5-2.

After falling behind 1-0 in the first inning on a sacrifice fly, the Lions struck back to take a 2-1 lead in the second inning. Colby Martzall started the frame by drawing a walk. Moments later, Max Cathcart ripped a double into the right-center field gap and Martzall scored easily. Three batters later, Brenton Spickerman stroked a two-out single to score Cathcart.

That 2-1 lead was short-lived, however, when Clackamas came up with two more runs in the bottom of the second. Realistically, though, neither of those runs should have scored. The first run in that frame came in when a semi-routine pop-up to second base was dropped. Moments later, the Cavs scored on a delayed steal of home. That gave Clackamas the lead for good at 3-2.

In the sixth, Clackamas plated another run on a West Linn throwing error. The Cavs tallied another counter in the sixth on a single that barely deflected off the glove of leaping first baseman Alex Edwards.

It was a difficult loss, but it would be hard to fault the effort of the two pitchers West Linn used in the game. Ryan Barnes, who spends most of his time playing in the infield, got the start on the mound and he could not have pitched much better during his four-inning stint. He did give up five hits but two of the three runs he yielded were unearned.

Spickerman, who came on in relief in the fifth inning, didn't have much luck, either. One of the runs he yielded was unearned and the other scored on a fortunate carom for the Cavs.

The problem for West Linn really came on offense. The Lions managed eight hits for the game, but four of them came in the second when they scored twice. The other four hits were spread out over six innings, which made it difficult to score additional runs. There were two innings when the Lions went three up, three down and two other frames where they sent only four batters to the plate.

Aside from the second inning, West Linn's best chance to score came in the fifth. Barnes led off that frame with a double. Then Martzall followed with a sinking liner that looked like it would fall for at least a single. But the Clackamas right fielder managed to make a stumbling catch on the play. Then, after Cathcart was hit by a pitch, the Lions got two weak pop-ups to end the inning.

That loss eliminated any chance West Linn had of securing the league's No. 3 seed, or even the No. 4 seed, in the metro playoffs. But the Lions still had a chance to move on with victory over Putnam in Tuesday's fifth-place game.

That seemed to be a good match-up for West Linn since Putnam was short on pitching coming into the tournament, and the Kingsmen were coming off an 11-5 pounding earlier in the day at the hands of Lakeridge.

Apparently that loss to Lakeridge didn't soften up Putnam enough, however. The Kingsmen wound up winning that fifth-place game by a 9-5 score.

Claiming fifth place would not have been much of a bargain, though. Putnam will now have to win two play-in games just to advance to the first round of the metro playoffs.