LO Legion team close to TRL title
By the time he reached the seventh inning of Tuesday night's crucial league game against Clackamas, Lake Oswego pitcher Moto Asai was running on fumes.
Just last Friday, Asai had pitched the distance in a pivotal 3-2 victory over Canby. So he probably didn't expect to pitch Tuesday night against Clackamas. But Asai found himself back on the mound after starter Craig Mooney struggled with his control and was lifted after two innings.
Asai was fortunate enough to take over with a 6-3 lead, thanks to some early clutch hitting by the Lakers. Then it was Asai's turn as he held Clackamas to just one run over the last five innings.
But Asai and the Lakers didn't exactly cruise to the victory.
In the final frame, Asai gave up singles to the first two batters he faced. Then, after retiring the next hitter on strikes, Asai gave up another single to load the bases. At that point, all the Cavs needed was a solid single to the outfield to tie the game.
But Asai struck out the next hitter and then induced the final batter into a flyout to right as the Lakers hung on for a pressure-packed 6-4 victory.
'Moto has pitched well all summer. It's been a huge plus having him in our rotation,' assistant coach Brian Keswick said.
'He pitched on Friday, so you could kind of see he was fighting to get through (Tuesday's game). But overall, he pitched great … And that last inning, that was a great way to end it.'
Despite a sparse crowd, the contest felt like a playoff game and in many ways it was. With the victory, Lake Oswego improved its league record to 6-1 while the previously undefeated Cavs fell to 6-1. With that win, Lake Oswego only needed to beat Milwaukie on Wednesday to win the league's regular season title.
Yet, even if that happens, the Lakers and the Cavs would still meet next Monday to determine which team receives the TRL's No. 1 seed in the upcoming Metro area playoffs. The other team would then receive the No. 2 seed.
Because of next week's one-game playoff, it would seem that Tuesday night's game had very little meaning. But that's not true.
If the Lakers had lost to Clackamas, they would have slipped to third place (behind West Linn) and would have been forced to play at least one extra game in next week's league playoffs. Now, the Lakers probably will be able to give two of their top pitchers, probably Mooney and Asai, more than a week off before the Metro playoffs begin.
But, with the way things started on Tuesday, it looked like the Lakers might be in for a long night. The Cavs were in good position to score at least one run in the opening frame when they put runners on first and third with one out.
However, Mooney managed to strike out the next batter. At approximately the same time, the runner on first attempted to steal second. But shortstop Jared Van Hoon cut off the throw to second and relayed it back to the plate when the runner on third decided to head home. It turned out to be possibly the biggest play of the night as catcher Jeff Kremer blocked the plate with his foot and then tagged out the sliding runner to end the inning.
The Lakers then parlayed their good fortune into a four-run scoring spree in the bottom of the first.
Brian Zinsmeister started things off with a double into the right-center field gap, and Kremer followed with a single and later advanced to second on a wild pitch.
Moments later, Van Hoon singled to score both runners for a 2-0 lead. Then, after an out had been recorded, Nik Torkelson reached on a single and Tom Slade followed with a two-run single to make it 4-0.
Clackamas got three of those runs back in the second, an inning that started with two walks and a single. Another walk forced in the first run for the Cavs and two more runs came home on a pair of groundouts to trim Lake Oswego's lead to 4-3.
At that point, it seemed as though the game would turn into a slugfest, so the Lakers responded accordingly by scoring two more runs in the bottom of the second. The first one scored when Kremer drew a bases-loaded walk to force in Nick Rulli. Moments later, Van Hoon belted a long sacrifice fly to bring home Steve Eisenhauer.
Amazingly, it would be the last time Lake Oswego would score in the game.
'As the game went on (the Clackamas pitcher) made some adjustments … and our batters weren't quite as selective as we were early on,' said Keswick, who was temporarily filling in for head coach Jake Anders.
Fortunately, Lake Oswego had just enough of a cushion that it didn't matter. Plus, Keswick made a bold move to pull Mooney, who threw a no-hitter against Wilsonville last Wednesday. He was replaced by Asai, who was pitching with less than his normal rest. Asai promptly yielded a single to the first batter he saw, but he then struck out the next three batters to get out of the third inning.
Asai put two runners onboard in the fourth but he managed to get out of that jam. He wasn't quite as lucky in the fifth, though, as Clackamas scored a run on a pair of doubles, both of which were misplayed by fielders.
Asai then had an easy sixth and a seventh that was anything but easy. Yet, he was able to keep Clackamas scoreless in that frame despite loading the bases with one out.
'It's nice to have a two or three-run lead, because you can go after hitters,' Keswick said.
'We were willing to use all of our pitchers to get this win today,' Keswick said.