Hawks put things all together in quarterfinal win

Baseball: Horizon Christian rolls to a 12-3 win over Burns to advance to the semis
by: DAN BROOD TURNING TWO — Horizon Christian senior shortstop Shane Monahan (right) makes a throw to first base after forcing Burns’ Tyler Sims out at second in Saturday’s Class 3A quarterfinal playoff game. The Hawks won 12-3.

TUALATIN - On May 25, The Horizon Christian baseball team made school history.

On Saturday, the Hawks were just plain dominant.

And they also continued their unprecedented run through the state playoffs.

Horizon Christian, after posting its first-ever state playoff victory with a 6-5 win over Santiam Christian on May 25, advanced to the semifinal round of the state playoffs for the very first time by rolling to a 12-3 victory over Burns in a Class 3A state playoff quarterfinal game played Saturday at Horizon Christian High School.

'This is pretty big,' said Horizon Christian senior Spencer Vroman, who went 4-for-5 at the plate in the win over the Highlanders. 'The first win set our legacy. We knew once we got past the first round, we'd be really motivated.'

'It's the longest we've ever been playing,' said Horizon Christian sophomore Willie Brucker, who turned in a complete-game pitching performance in Saturday's victory. 'We have great team morale, we've worked hard and we're playing for God.'

Burns, the No. 2 team out of the Eastern Oregon League, finished its season with a final overall record of 17-8. Horizon Christian, the West Valley League champion, improved to 25-3 on the season with the victory and advanced to play at Vale Tuesday in the semifinal round of the state playoffs.

'We're very excited about that,' Vroman said.

Horizon Christian, in Saturday's game with Burns, not only got a strong pitching performance from Brucker, but the Hawks also pounded out 12 base hits and they made some crucial, momentum-shifting plays on defense.

'We know if we do things right on defense, we can stay in games,' Horizon Christian coach Alex Esquerra said. 'Today, we had some clutch plays on defense.'

That started right from the start of Saturday's game.

Burns, drawing a walk, getting a single and having a batter hit by a pitch, loaded the bases with one out in the top of the first inning.

The next Burns batter, junior Tyler Cooper, hit a grounder to Horizon Christian senior second baseman Ryan Guay, who threw to senior shortstop Shane Monahan who, after getting the force out at second, rifled a throw to junior first baseman Josh Holmes to complete the inning-ending double play.

The Hawks almost topped that in the second inning.

Burns opened the frame with a single and a walk, putting runners on first and second win no outs. The next batter, junior Kiran Colahan, hit a line drive toward the gap in left-center field. It looked to be a sure run-scoring single, but Horizon Christian junior left fielder T.J. Hilton, sprinting to his right, made a diving catch. Hilton sprung up and threw the ball to Monahan at second base for a double play. Monahan then zipped a throw to first. Holmes wasn't quite able to handle the bouncing throw, leaving the Hawks that close to completing at triple play.

Meanwhile, the Hawks were also picking things up on offense.

They took a 3-0 lead in the first inning. Vroman, who reached base on a bunt single, scored the game's first run when Burns committed an error on a grounder by Holmes. Guay drew a bases-loaded walk and sophomore Zach Selland was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded to bring in the other two runs in the opening frame.

Horizon Christian added another run in the second inning. Vroman hit a two-out double to right-center field and then he scored on junior Jordan Pearson's single to center, making the score 4-0.

Burns got on the scoreboard with a run in the top of the third, but the Hawks answered back in their half of the inning. Freshman Kyle Esquerra had a one-out infield single. He moved to second when Monahan drew a walk and then advanced to third on a balk call. Esquerra then scored on a groundout by Brucker to give HC a 5-1 advantage.

Burns, getting a solo home run by junior Tyler Sims, cut the lead to 5-2 in the top of the fifth inning. But Horizon Christian broke the game open in its half of the frame.

Selland and Monahan were each hit by a pitch and Esquerra reached base on a Burns error to load the bases with no outs. Selland then scored on a groundout by Brucker to make the score 6-2. The Hawks didn't stop there.

Vroman followed with an RBI single to center field and Pearson drove in another run with a sacrifice fly to deep center. Senior Trevor Guay then plated Vroman with a single to right and Holmes doubled to the fence in center, driving in Trevor Guay to give the Hawks a 10-2 advantage.

Horizon Christian kept on rolling in the sixth inning. Selland drew a walk to lead off the frame and he moved to third on Monahan's one-out double to left field. Selland then scored on a sacrifice fly by Brucker. Monahan then scored on a single by Vroman to make the score 12-2.

Burns got a run in the top of the seventh inning, but that wasn't nearly enough as Horizon Christian wrapped up the 12-3 victory.

'There are certain things we need to do right to win,' Alex Esquerra said. 'And today we got a good balance of that.'

Brucker, in getting the pitching win, gave up three runs on eight hits.

'I felt like I didn't have my best stuff,' Brucker said. 'But the defense backed me up.'

Vroman helped lead the offensive attack with his four hits, which included a double, three runs scored and two RBI.

'That's what we've been working on,' Vroman said. 'The nice thing about our offense is that someone different gets us going each day.'

Also for the Hawks, Pearson went 2-for-3 at the plate with a sacrifice fly, one run scored and two RBI. Trevor Guay went 2-for-4 with a run and an RBI. Holmes went 2-for-4 with a double and two RBI. Esquerra and Monahan added one hit apiece.

Brucker had a big day for the Hawks in the win over Santiam Christian. And it was also a special day for Brucker, as he also turned 16 on May 25.

'That was great,' Brucker said. 'God blessed me.'

Brucker celebrated his 16th birthday by hitting a game-tying home run in the sixth inning and then tripling in the game-winning run in the eighth.

Brucker was also the winning pitcher, giving up just one run while pitching the final four innings of the contest.