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Tigers turn to their pitching

Baseball: Tigard's bats go cold, but the team moves to 3-1 in league with a 5-2 victory
by: JONATHAN HOUSE, SAFE AT THE PLATE — Tigard High School senior Isaiah Ferrer (left) slides home safely in the bottom of the fifth inning to help the Tigers score a 5-2 win over McMinnville in Tuesday’s Pacific Conference game.

TIGARD - The bats on the Tigard baseball team are bound to heat up.

Until then, the Tigers will continue to rely on timely runs and its stellar pitching. That was the case Tuesday as senior standout Ryan Gorton tossed a two-hitter and Tigard strung together runs on walks, errors and the occasional hit to beat McMinnville 5-2 at Tigard High School.

By handing the Grizzlies their first league loss in the opening contest of the three-game series, the Tigers (9-4 overall) moved into a tie with them for second in the Pacific Conference at 3-1. But that did little to contain Tigard's frustration after being held to five hits.

'We have to swing the bats better,' said leadoff hitter Ty Morrison, who drew two walks and scored twice. 'That's the bottom line. We have a lot of potential but we're nowhere near what we should be.'

'Our approach at the plate was horrific,' Tigard coach Tom Campbell said. 'We acted like we've never seen curveballs. We're in for a tough time if we can't get better at-bats.'

In the absence of hitting, Tigard continued to rely on its pitching and defense. Gorton was up to the task, allowing just two hits and one earned run in his complete game effort. The hard-throwing righty struck out seven and walked two to buy the Tigers some time after falling behind 1-0 in the first inning.

'It usually seems to take the first couple innings to get loosened up,' said Gorton. 'The blood starts pumping and the velocity starts to pick up.'

McMinnville got a run in the first when Keenan Draper reached on a dropped third strike, went to second on a passed ball and scored when Cameron Clow chopped an RBI-single past a diving third baseman for a 1-0 lead.

Gorton then tossed four hitless innings, benefiting from double plays in the third and fourth. After leaving the bases loaded in the first and getting two hits through four innings off Grizzly starter Travis Vincent, Tigard finally got on the board in the fifth.

Morrison was hit by a pitch to open the frame and set the tone for a sloppy inning by McMinnville. Senior Isaiah Ferrer hit a chopper to third and reached on a throwing error that put Morrison on third. Gorton followed by lining a single into right to plate Morrison for a 1-1 tie. The ball skipped past the outfielder, sending Ferrer to third and Gorton to second.

Senior Andrew Woolfe was intentionally walked to load the bases. After a foul out, junior Kawika Bernal hit a grounder to the shortstop, but the throw to the plate was in the dirt as Ferrer scored and the bases remained full. Senior Conor Clark drew a walk to plate Gorton for a 3-1 lead.

'They had to make a couple errors for us to get some runs,' Campbell said. 'It wasn't as much what we did as it was them giving it to us.'

Vincent went five innings, mixing in a slider with a decent fastball to allow three hits and strike out four, but he also walked seven.

'He mixed his pitches well,' Morrison said. 'We did a better job of executing on their mistakes and taking advantage of that.'

The Grizzlies got a run back in the sixth when Draper drove a solo home run over the left field fence. Gorton retired the final five batters in order to finish off the game and Tigard got two insurance runs in the bottom of the sixth.

McMinnville reliever Greg Laslett walked the first two batters (Morrison and Ferrer). Gorton, who had two of Tigard's four hits and two RBI, ripped an 0-2 pitch into left field to plate Morrison for a 4-2 lead. Woolfe walked and Ferrer scored on the ball four wild pitch to make it 5-2.

Patrick Chabreck was hit by a pitch to load the bases with no outs, but the Tigers left them stranded for 10 total in the game. Fortunately, Gorton didn't need any more support, working a 1-2-3 seventh for his second league win.

'We have a good offense,' Gorton said. 'I knew if I could limit them to a couple runs, we would come out on top.'

Tigard, which took two of three from Forest Grove in the league-opening series, played at McMinnville on Wednesday (score not available as of the Times' press deadline) and hosts the Grizzlies in Friday's finale.