Pioneer hardballers make school history

KEIZER - Oregon City High School baseball players, in one of the most dramatic turnarounds in Oregon high school baseball, made school history here Saturday night, defeating Thurston 7-5 in the championship final of the Oregon Class 6A high school baseball playoffs.

It's the first state baseball title in history for the Pioneers, who finished the 2011 season with only three wins in 25 ball games.

With the score tied at 3-3, the Pioneers put the Colts away in the bottom of the fifth, when they chased Thurston starting pitcher Kyle Watson from the mound with a 4-run rally. Sophomore shortstop Jacob Tipton had the key hit in the big inning, a 2-run triple.

Senior catcher Jon Reece got things started in the fifth with a one-out walk. Sophomore third baseman Clay Reece (2-for-4) and senior first baseman Marc Morris followed with back-to-back singles to bring Jon Reece around.

With two down in the fifth, junior second baseman Jake Phillips ripped a run-scoring single to left. Tipton followed with his two-run triple to the gap in right-center, and the Pioneers were in command, leading 7-3.

Tipton (2-for-3, 4 RBI) also had a two-run single in the first inning; junior outfielder Josh Scott came through with a run-scoring double in the fourth.

Junior left-hander Rilyn Lewchuk pitched a complete game for Oregon City, striking out three, walking one and allowing eight hits.

The Pioneers reached Watson and Thurston reliever Shane Quarterley for eight hits and five walks, while striking out four times.

Ranked second in the state, Thurston finished the season with an overall record of 26-5; Oregon City finished up at 20-11.

Oregon City's road to the final was no cakewalk. Ranked 22nd in the state, the Pioneers upset top-ranked Roseburg 2-1 in the semifinals, after dropping fourth-ranked Jesuit 6-5 in nine innings in the quarterfinals.

In earlier playoff games, Oregon City dropped 12th-ranked Central Catholic 5-3 and 34th-ranked McNary 4-0.

'[The difference from last year was] the coaching, and getting everyone to believe,' Jon Reece said. 'Relentlessly pursuing a championship. Everyone believed. It was not caring who gets credit. Everyone had a role, and everyone contributed....'

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