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Teamwork takes Tualatin to victory

Baseball: The Wolves, getting strong pitching, hitting and defense, score a 9-1 playoff win over Canby
by: DAN BROOD AUSTIN POWERS – Tualatin High School senior Austin Richmond gets ready to fire a pitch to the plate during Monday’s state playoff game. Richmond struck out nine batters in six innings of work.

TUALATIN - Team baseball.

It's more than just a slogan or a motto to the Tualatin High School baseball team.

The Timberwolves have really seemed to that phrase to heart.

On Monday Tualatin turned its brand of team baseball into an impressive postseason victory.

The Wolves, focusing on teamwork, powered their way to a 9-1 win over former Pacific Conference foe Canby in a Class 6A state playoff first round game played at Tualatin High School.

'We've definitely been working on team baseball - get them on, get them over, get them in,' said Tualatin junior shortstop Nathan Suyematsu, who had two hits and a pair of runs scored in the win. 'We definitely came out ready to play today. We played hard got that first playoff win under our belts.'

'We're definitely playing team baseball. That's the big thing for us,' said Tualatin senior pitcher Austin Richmond, who threw six strong innings in the victory. 'We're ready for the playoffs. We were struggling a little bit earlier in the season, but we're playing well now.'

Canby, which had won seven of its last eight games going into the playoff contest, finished its season with a final overall record of 11-16. Tualatin, the Pacific Conference co-champion, improved to 22-5 on the season with the victory, the Wolves' 15th straight.

'It was a great way to start the playoffs, going against a team that was hot,' Tualatin coach Matt Unis said. 'We feel good about the way we're playing. We're getting strong pitching and defense and we're doing good things on offense.'

Tualatin certainly seemed to have all aspects of the game working fluidly in Monday's playoff opener.

The Wolves struck quick in the contest, taking a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first.

Suyematsu, batting in the leadoff spot, got things started when he reached first base on a Canby throwing error. Junior Travis Johnson followed with a bunt single. Both runners then moved up a base on a sacrifice bunt by senior Corey VanDomelen.

Suyematsu then scored the game's first run on a groundout by senior Kevin O'Connor.

The Wolves added onto their lead in the bottom of the second inning. Junior Matt Miller and Suyematsu had back-to-back singles with one out in the inning. Then, following a fielder's choice grounder by Johnson, VanDomelen singled in Miller to give Tualatin a 2-0 lead.

Johnson then scored on a fielder's choice grounder by O'Connor to up the margin to 3-0. Senior Rick Bettinelli capped off the frame by singling in VanDomelen, making the score 4-0.

'We came out strong, and getting that early lead was nice,' Richmond said. 'That really helped me on the mound.'

Tualatin tacked on another run in the bottom of the fourth inning when Johnson hit a one-out single, moved to second on a groundout by VanDomelen and then scored on a single by O'Connor, giving the Wolves a 5-0 advantage.

Canby finally got on the scoreboard with a run in the top of the sixth inning, but Tualatin answered back in a big way in the bottom of the frame.

Miller led off the Tualatin half of the sixth with a double to left field. Suyematsu followed with a bunt single, with Miller coming around to score on a Canby throwing error on the play, upping the margin to 6-1. Johnson then reached base on an infield single, with Suyematsu moving up to second base on the hit.

VanDomelen then drilled a triple down the right-field line, plating both Suyematsu and Johnson to make the score 8-1. VanDomelen would then score the game's final run on a sacrifice fly by Bettinelli, capping off the 9-1 victory.

'We're all hitting the ball,' Suyematsu said. 'Hitting is contagious for us, and we trust everyone at the plate. We're definitely having a lot of fun.'

Johnson went 3-for-4 at the plate with three runs scored and VanDomelen went 2-for-4 with a triple, two runs scored and three RBI.

Meanwhile, Richmond turned in a dominating performance on the mound. In six innings of work, he gave up one run on two hits while striking out nine and walking just one.

'He was real strong,' Unis said. 'He established early on that he was going to throw strikes.'

Junior Nick Bland pitched the final shutout inning for Tualatin, giving up one hit and striking out two.

Tualatin was scheduled to host rival Tigard in a second-round state playoff game on Wednesday. Results of that game weren't available when the Times went to press.

The winner of Wednesday's game will advance to meet either Central Catholic or North Salem in a state playoff quarterfinal game on Friday. If Tualatin won Wednesday's game, it would host North Salem in a quarterfinal game. Tualatin would have to travel if it were to face Central Catholic in Friday's quarterfinals.

The state playoff semifinal round is set for Tuesday with the state championship game to be played June 4 at Volcanoes Stadium in Keizer.