Oregon champs jump to an early lead but can't hold on, lose 8-2 to Texas
The cheers were coming out of the wrong dugout.
With one out left in Thursday's World Series semifinal game that Texas was leading 8-2, the television camera panned Lake Oswego's dugout, expecting to get shots of downtrodden players, heads in their hands with coaches trying futility to console them. Instead, the cameras caught laughter and smiles.
It wasn't the wrong dugout. The team had on the Northwest's green and gold uniforms, which many of the players were originally upset about since they are Oregon State Beavers fans. But there were no tears, not even a disappointed expression.
Even before Thursday's 8-2 loss, Lake Oswego knew what it had accomplished. It had emerged victorious in no less than 10 must-win games to reach this point. It was a stunning statistic. And the Lakers were aware that they had earned a spot as one of the top four teams in the nation through sheer determination and had nothing to be disappointed about.
'What got us here is we have a bunch of kids who really battle. We really have a mental toughness about our team where we never seem to give up. We are so proud of the kids and what they've accomplished,' Lake Oswego manager Craig Ramey said.
'If anyone on June 15, when these teams were announced, said they thought we would be one of the final four teams in the United States, they'd be kidding you,' Ramey added.
On Thursday, the magic simply ran out. The scoreboard shows an 8-2 loss, a 7-3 disadvantage in hits and a Texas pitcher who was nothing short of brilliant. But it doesn't show the fact that things very well could have been different had Lake Oswego received a few breaks. Or, maybe just one break.
That crucial play occurred in the top of the third inning. With a 2-0 lead, Lake Oswego pitcher Mitch Lomax was facing his first adversity of the game. Runners stood on first and third base with only one out.
Lead-off hitter Stephen Smith hit a sharp ground ball to Austin Andrews at second base. Andrews flipped to Harrison Ramey for the first out and Ramey's throw to Reid Penney at first appeared to just beat the speedy Smith. But Smith was called safe and Texas had its first run of the game.
'That was a huge play for (Smith) to beat that out. It was definitely a close call. You know, from my side of the fence, I was sure he was out,' Ramey said.
Penney was even more emphatic.
'On ESPN they showed the replay and he was out by a mile. But you couldn't change it,' Penney said.
The play would become the turning point of the game. After a Garrett Williams single kept the inning alive, Bryndan Arredondo, one of the most feared hitters in the series, came to the plate and belted a three-run home run to right field, giving Texas a lead it wouldn't surrender.
It also garnered a fist pump and a celebration leap from Texas manager Ed Thorne, who rarely had an opportunity to show much emotion this tournament as his team has faced very little adversity.
In the previous inning, Lake Oswego took the lead, stunning the loud Texas cheering section. Brennan Malagamba led off with a walk and Penney followed with a line drive down the left field line for a double.
Penney's slide into second base drove the bag nearly into the outfield.
Texas then made a pitching change, going to its ace Williams, who had recorded 17 strikeouts in a previous contest. Williams, a southpaw, struck out the first batter he faced as Calvin Hermanson, also a lefty, stepped in to pinch hit.
Hermanson hit a bouncing ball toward second base that got over the fielder's glove and plated two runs. It also sent Lake Oswego's fans into a frenzy. In the team's previous two wins, two runs had been enough to win.
'We had heard about this guy and knew he was going to throw heat. I was thinking, 'OK, I've got to swing earlier and get in the back of the box. I just have to take that first pitch and see how fast he's throwing,' Hermanson said.
With the way Lomax was throwing early on, it didn't seem improbable that he could keep the hard-hitting Texas team in check.
'We thought we were going to win the game,' Penney said.
Lomax struck out five of the first six batters he saw, four of them swinging. He also threw as many pitches in the first two innings as he did in just the opening frame of his last outing in which he got the win in a 1-0 victory over Massachusetts.
'I was feeling great. I was throwing strikes. The third inning got kind of out of hand when they got a couple of hits and I lost control,' Lomax said.
After the Lakers gave up the lead in the third inning, Williams didn't give them much of a chance to rebound. Williams struck out the side in the bottom of the third inning and struck out two more batters in the fourth inning, all swinging.
Lake Oswego's lone hit off of Williams after the second inning came when Mitchel McLaughlin led off the bottom of the fifth with a single into right field. But Lake Oswego couldn't capitalize and trailed 5-2 heading into the sixth.
'It didn't look like he was throwing that hard really but when you get up to the plate, it comes faster,' McLaughlin said.
Texas scored once more in the fourth inning on a wild pitch and Lomax reached his 85-pitch limit with one out in the top of the fifth. He then moved to first base after giving up five unearned runs. Penney came on in relief and walked the first batter he faced before getting Arredondo to ground out and striking out Tyler Thorne to end the inning.
Texas padded its lead in the sixth. After a walk and a bunt single, Taylor Bridges belted a three-run homer to left field to all but seal the game. The next three Texas batters walked against Hermanson, the new reliever, but Malagamba, the third reliever of the game, rebounded by recording a strikeout.
Then, Arredondo hit a hard ground ball to third baseman Duncan Campbell, who stepped on base and threw to first. The toss pulled Penney, who had returned to first, off the base but he made the tag to complete the double play and end the inning.
There would be no miracle in the bottom of the sixth. Malagamba drew a two-out walk but Williams struck out the other three batters in the inning, giving him 11 for the game.
'We scored 16 runs in an inning at state. We have scored bunches of runs before so there is always that small hope that we can have our big inning,' McLaughlin said.
But the team wasn't disheartened. They were greeted warmly by their parents and addressed by coach Ramey. Then many of them changed out of their uniforms and hopped in the pool, ready to continue having fun on this trip.
The team is planning to stay in Pennsylvania through the end of the World Series. They will watch the championship game on Sunday and, in the meantime, hope to catch a football practice at nearby Penn State University and may travel to the Hershey chocolate factory as well.
'We want the kids to enjoy all of the experience of the rest of the week and just have fun and hang out with the others kids and watch the games,' Ramey said.
The team will return to Oregon on Monday and will receive a party on Wednesday at Westlake Park.