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LO Little Leaguers win District 4 title

by: John Lariviere, Lake Oswego’s Mitch Lomax, left, prepares to deliver a pitch during last Thursday’s District 4 Little League championship game against Tigard. Lomax got a helping hand from reliever Reid Penny as Lake Oswego won the game 12-3. The Lakers also had a number of big hits, including a three-run homer by Duncan Campbell and a two-run blast by Austin Andrews. Among those playing a key role was shortstop Harrison Ramey, below.

Over the past several years it was almost a foregone conclusion that Beaverton's Murrayhill Little League all-star team would win the District 4 championship. But this year the title belongs to Lake Oswego.

Amazingly, Murrayhill didn't even make it to the championship game of last week's District 4 tournament. The Beaverton stars met their match in the semifinals against a tenacious Tigard team.

After such a milestone victory, it seemed Tigard had all the momentum it needed to follow up with a victory against Lake Oswego in the title game. But the LO stars proved to be a formidable bunch as they pounded out a 12-3 victory to cap an excellent tournament run.

'We played well the whole tournament and it was so rewarding to see these guys play their best game of the tournament in the championship game,' Lake Oswego head coach Craig Ramey said.

It was a game that featured plenty of offensive fireworks as Duncan Campbell led off the scoring with three-run homer and Austin Andrews capped the slugfest with a two-run blast.

Tigard also was a prolific offensive team during the tournament but the Tigers had trouble solving Lake Oswego's fireball pitcher, Mitch Lomax. Then, after Lomax was forced from the mound because of a pitch-count limitation, Lake Oswego turned to Reid Penny and he used his big-breaking curveball to close the door on the District 4 championship.

The Tigard pitching staff was somewhat depleted after nipping Murrayhill 7-6 in the semis. But Lake Oswego had the luxury of saving Lomax, its top hurler, for the championship game.

'It was a big advantage for us tonight, having our No. 1 pitcher available,' Ramey said.

When Lomax ran out of pitches in the fourth inning, while holding a 7-3 lead, Lake Oswego answered with the perfect compliment to its lanky flame-thrower.

'(Lomax) was throwing great, but Reid Penny is one of our top pitchers and we knew all along that he would be coming in sometime today,' Ramey said. 'When he came in, he was just unbelievable.'

The pitching on both sides was superb through the first two innings. Lomax had six strikeouts during that span, but he also walked three batters while unleashing 42 pitches - approximately one-half of his allotment for the game.

Lake Oswego's hitters had an equally tough time against Tigard lefty Ryan Bickel, who used an assortment of pitches to keep batters off balance.

Lake Oswego's fortunes changed considerably in the third, though. That frame started with an error by the Tigard defense and Mikey Gallagher followed with a walk. Campbell, the next batter, then posted the game's first runs when he belted a high fastball over the fence in deep center for a three-run homer.

After an out was recorded, Lomax drew the second walk of the inning and Brennan Malagamba followed with a single. A short time later, both runners scored on Penny's two-out single and a fielding error, which made it 5-0.

Bickel gave up two more singles that inning, including a two-run blooper to right by Levi Rudolph that pushed Lake Oswego's lead to 7-0.

Once the offensive floodgates opened, it seemed they would never close. Ramey said the key was having his lineup see Bickel for the second time in the game.

'Once you see a guy the second time around, that's when you time him,' the Lake Oswego coach said. 'It just took a while to adjust.'

Meanwhile, the bottom of the third was Lomax's most efficient of the game as he needed just 14 pitches to get through the frame. But that inning also included the first hit he yielded. Lomax was fortunate that Robby Chabreck's laser line drive wasn't a home run. Instead, it missed clearing the left field fence by inches and, surprisingly, Chabreck was held to a two-out single. Lomax then struck out Chad Colson to end the inning.

After a scoreless fourth for Lake Oswego, Tigard finally began to wear down Lomax in the bottom of that frame. Trouble started with a lead-off walk by Tyler Baggenstos. Two batters later, Kyle George singled and Andrew Schlottman followed with a three-run homer that easily cleared the right field fence.

That narrowed the gap to 7-3 and Tigard was far from finished. Joey Fishback continued the rally with a walk and Nick Choruby followed with a single as the Tigard faithful began to roar.

Lomax quieted the crowd a bit when he struck out Wade Johnson for the inning's second out. But that marked the end of Lomax's evening on the mound as he reached his 85-pitch limit. First baseman Penny then swapped places with Lomax and he promptly induced Chabreck into an inning-ending ground out.

The fifth could have been another big inning for Tigard, but two big defensive plays kept the Tigers off the board in that frame. The first gem was turned in by Campbell at third when he back-handed a hard grounder down the line and then threw out Baggenstos by a step at first.

Then, with two outs and runners on first and second, Schlottman hit a hard grounder up the middle. Andrews, the Lake Oswego second baseman, made a diving stop on the ball and rolled over to touch second for an inning-ending force play.

Lake Oswego added more offensive fireworks in the sixth, which included singles by Rudolph and Campbell and doubles by Lomax and Malagamba. Andrews then capped the scoring with a two-run blast to center, to almost the same spot that Campbell hit his round-tripper earlier in the game.

Penny then finished off the championship by retiring Tigard 1-2-3 in the bottom of the sixth. For once, it was someone besides Murrayhill that was holding the trophy at the end.

'They've won it for quite a few years in a row,' Ramey noted. 'But this year we felt coming in that we were the team to beat.'

And what about the state tournament?

'I feel really confident about our chances,' the Lake Oswego coach said. 'You've got to take it one game at a time … But if we get to the title game, we feel pretty confident against anybody.'