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WLs 12B baseball team nearly wins a 12A title

by: Submitted Photo, Michael Skoczylas, far left, jogs home after hitting a walk-off, three-run home run that gave West Linn’s 12B baseball team a 7-4 victory over West Linn’s 12A at last week’s state tournament in Dallas. That moved the 12B team to the championship game, which was won by a team from Sandy.

West Linn's 12B all-star baseball team came unbelievably close to pulling off an unlikely feat last weekend.

The team, which is managed by Mike Hughes and coached by Bill Hoveke and Joe Mollusky, was the wild-card seed in the 12A Northern Oregon Cal Ripken state tournament in Dallas after winning the 12B state tournament in dominating fashion the week before. Typically, a 12B team would be a large underdog in the 12A state tournament, but the West Linn squad surprisingly advanced to the championship game before bowing to the eventual champion.

The West Linn 12B team won three of its first four games and then, as fate would have it, was bracketed to play the powerful West Linn 12A all-star team, managed by Joe Monahan and coached by Greg Wolfe and Jason Porter, in a semifinal showdown.

In a tense face-off, the West Linn 12A team led 6-1 going into the bottom of the sixth inning on the strength of three hits by Ben Trussell, a home run by Nick Hysell and two home runs by Riley Wilkerson.

With one out in the bottom of the inning, Clayton Gelfand of the 12B team hit a single to right. Connor Jetton followed with a walk. Jacob Betts then hit a double to left, scoring Clayton Gelfand. Mitch Hoveke then hit a line drive that bounced over the fence for a ground rule double, scoring Connor and Jacob and making the score 6-4.

Andrew Yokubaitis then hit a hard grounder between first and second for a single, moving Hoveke to third. With runners on first and third, Michael Skoczylas hit a home run over the right field fence for a three-run walk-off home run and a 7-4 victory.

The B team players, coaches, parents and fans erupted. The cheering was so loud that the other semifinal game had to be stopped for a moment.

The West Linn 12A team then moved to the consolation game and beat Central 14-2 for third place in the tournament.

In the championship game, the West Linn 12B team played a never-say-die Sandy team. West Linn came out pounding the ball and streaked to a 5-0 lead in the top of the first inning. The scoring started with a three-run homer by Adam Winterling and RBI singles by Hoveke and Skoczylas.

But Sandy battled back. After tying the game twice, Sandy took a 14-9 lead in the fifth, thanks to some fielding miscues by West Linn. Then, West Linn fought back with two runs in the top of the sixth, but the rally came up short as Sandy held on for a 14-11 win.

At the conclusion of the tournament, the West Linn players were awarded individual silver medals and then Yokubaitis, West Linn's catcher, was honored with the 'Left It All on the Field' game ball for putting 110-percent effort into his play. Coaches on the opposing team recognized Skoczylas as the most valuable player and Mitch Hoveke the Golden Glove for his defensive play.

West Linn 12B team played in all 'A' tournaments except one during the year and compiled a 25-12-1 record in the process. In addition to last week's runner-up finish and the 12B state title, the B team also took second place in the Summer Kickoff tournament in Lyden, Wash.

Statistically, Hoveke and Winterling led West Linn in home runs with three each. Jacob Betts led the team in batting with a .395 average. In addition, Hoveke, Skoczylas, Yokubaitis, Connor Jetton and Joey Apthorp all hit over 300. Defensively, West Linn was led by the likes of Jetton, Betts, Hoveke, Robert Mollusky, Clayton Gelfand and Kyle Hughes in the infield while Skoczylas, Winterling, T.J. Hilton and Jordan Pearson anchored the outfield. Winterling, Mollusky and Gelfand were the top pitchers.