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Wolves can't string hits together in playoff loss

Baseball: Tualatin is edged 4-2 by Central Catholic in the quarterfinal tilt
by: DAN BROOD TO THE BAG — Tualatin senior Austin Angle dives to second base as Central Catholic shortstop Paul Bluhm goes up high to get the ball in Friday’s game.

WILSONVILLE - It's said that timing is everything.

And Central Catholic definitely seemed to have the edge over Tualatin when it came to timely hitting.

The Rams, getting a pair of crucial, timely home runs by senior designated hitter Luke Vanoudenhaegen, scored a 4-2 win over the Timberwolves, who stranded 12 runners on base, in a Class 6A state playoff quarterfinal baseball game played Friday at Wilsonville High School.

'It was two really good teams,' Tualatin coach Matt Unis said after the game. 'They swung the bats well and we made a few mistakes here and there. We had 12 runners left on base - that's kind of the story.'

Central Catholic, the Mt. Hood Conference champion, improved to 24-6 on the season with the victory. The Rams also advanced to play at Roseburg in the state semifinal round.

Tualatin, the Pacific Conference co-champion, finished its season with a final overall record of 23-6.

'It was awesome,' Tualatin senior outfielder Rick Bettinelli said of the Timberwolves' season. 'I couldn't be any happier. Seniors, juniors, freshman, sophomores - we're all real close. It was a heck of a season.'

'It was a special season,' Tualatin senior catcher Taylor Johnson said. 'We faced adversity. It was a big test, and I can gladly say that we passed that test. We have to hold our heads high.'

Tualatin, which brought a 16-game winning streak into Friday's quarterfinal game, got off to a strong start, scoring a run in the top of the first inning.

Junior Travis Johnson was hit by a pitch with one out in the opening frame to get things started for the Wolves. He moved to second when senior Corey VanDomelen drew a walk. Johnson then scored the first run of the game when Bettinelli drove a two-out ground-ball single up the middle, giving Tualatin a quick 1-0 lead.

'We came out fired-up,' Taylor Johnson said. 'I'm always fired-up.'

Central Catholic answered back with a run in its half of the first. Junior Lucas Hunter hit a one-out double to right field and he would score on a single by junior Codi Scanlon to tie the game at 1-1.

Tualatin threatened to regain the lead in the top of the second. Senior designated hitter Austin Angle hit a leadoff single to left field, junior Nick Bland drew a walk and Travis Johnson hit a single to center to load the bases with two outs.

But Central Catholic junior pitcher Jimmy Brakebush coaxed an inning-ending groundout to get out of the jam.

But the Wolves wouldn't be denied in the third inning.

Senior Kevin O'Connor led off the frame with a double to left-center field. Then, following a 10-minute rain delay, O'Connor moved to third base on a groundout by Bettinelli. O'Connor then scored on Taylor Johnson's single to left field to give Tualatin a 2-1 lead.

But the Wolves couldn't do any further damage in the inning, as Brakebush recorded back-to-back strikeouts to end the frame.

The Wolves were still holding a 2-1 advantage going into the bottom of the fourth inning, but that's when the Rams, and Vanoudenhaegen, struck.

With one out in the frame, Vanoudenhaegen stepped to the plate and hit a home run, just to the right of center field, tying the game at 2-2.

Tualatin threatened in the fifth inning, getting a two-out single by Taylor Johnson, and again in the sixth, when junior Nathan Suyematsu and Travis Johnson both reached base with two outs, but the Wolves weren't able to push the go-ahead run across.

Central Catholic, in the bottom of the sixth, got the its leadoff runner on base when the Wolves committed an error on a grounder by senior Paul Bluhm. Vanoudenhaegen then came up and hit a two-run homer - nearly to the same spot as his previous home run - to give the Rams their first lead of the game at 4-2.

Tualatin tried to battle back in the top of the seventh. O'Connor reached base on a Central Catholic throwing error to start the inning and Taylor Johnson drew a one-out walk, putting the potential tying runs on base.

But Brakebush got a fielder's choice grounder and then a groundout to Bluhm at shortstop to end the game and wrap up the Rams' 4-2 victory.

'We never gave up,' Bettinelli said. 'We thought we'd come back and win, but, unfortunately, we didn't'

'We went down swinging,' Taylor Johnson said. 'We threatened, but we just couldn't capitalize.'

Brakebush, in getting the complete-game pitching victory for Central Catholic, gave up two runs on six hits while striking out five and walking two.

'Their pitcher made some big pitches when they needed it,' Unis said.

Senior Austin Richmond pitched a strong game for the Wolves, striking out six and walking one.

Taylor Johnson went 2-for-3 at the plate with an RBI for Tualatin. Bettinelli, Angle, Travis Johnson and O'Connor added one hit apiece.

While the deep, balanced Wolves were disappointed in seeing their season come to a close, they said they were happy with what they achieved.

'We didn't have a superstar this year,' Taylor Johnson said. 'We all counted on each other. I'll always remember our junior and senior years.'

'What a great group of kids,' Unis said. 'They're so coachable and a cohesive unit. They all were willing to do what the team needed. They all did what they had to do. We had great kids on the bench.'

The quarterfinal loss marked the final high school game for Tualatin seniors O'Connor, VanDomelen, Bettinelli, Adam Hegstrom, Taylor Johnson, Angle, Richmond and Michael Poach.

'It's tough,' Bettinelli said. 'But we have to move on.'

'We've played together for a long time,' Taylor Johnson said. 'It's a special group of guys. It's a special group here every year.'