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Tigard stays tough at district tournament

by: Dan Brood AT THE PLATE — Tigard catcher J.C. Jackson (left) looks to put a tag on Sun Creek’s Smyth England.

PORTLAND - Just a few plays here or there.

Maybe one less error.

Maybe three more inches on a blast to left field.

It all - perhaps - may have made a difference for the Tigard Little League Majors (ages 11-12) all-star baseball team as it finished off pool play at the District 4 Tournament.

But things didn't go Tigard's way, as it fell 5-1 to Sun Creek in a pool play game held Monday at Alpenrose Dairy.

However, that didn't seem to dampen the spirits of the enthusiastic Tigard squad.

After all, Tigard seems to be having more than its share of fun and, with the way the tournament is set up, Tigard still has a chance to make plenty of noise at the district event.

'I'm having a blast at this tournament,' Tigard's Brett Thomas said after Monday's game.

Tigard, which also fell 14-5 to Murrayhill and 8-5 to Cedar Mill in pool play, will be back in action tonight (Thursday) when it faces Raleigh Hills in a tournament quarterfinal game starting at 7:30 p.m. at Alpenrose Dairy.

'We really want to win that,' said Thomas, who will be the starting pitcher for Tigard in tonight's game. 'I'm looking forward to it and I'm excited to be pitching.'

'I think we can do good,' added Tigard's Matthew Vlahos. 'I think we can get it going. We've got a lot of positive energy.'

Tigard goes into tonight's quarterfinal game as the No. 4 team from Pool B. Raleigh Hills, which went 3-0 in pool play, is the No. 1 seed from Pool A. But that doesn't seem to bother Tigard.

'We've got all of our pitchers ready, and we've got our best pitcher starting,' Tigard manager Jerry Nihill said. 'The kids have really stuck with it. From top to bottom, this is a great group of kids.'

And it's a group of Tigard kids who battled right to the end of Monday's game with Sun Creek.

Tigard started strong, as both Thomas and J.C. Jackson singled in the top of the first inning, but Tigard wasn't able to score in the frame.

Sun Creek scored an unearned run in the bottom of the frame to go up 1-0.

But Tigard tied things up in the top of the second inning. Parker Kuntz singled to left field to start things off. One out later, Benjamin Jacobson hit into a fielder's choice with Kuntz being thrown out at second base. Taylor Ott then doubled to center field, with Jacobson coming around to score on the hit, knotting up the game at 1-1.

Sun Creek answered back in its half of the frame. Andrew Witt led off the inning with a bloop single to center field. The next Sun Creek batter, Smyth England, hit a hard ground ball that possibly could have been turned into a double play. However, an overthrow to second base allowed both Witt and England to circle the bases, giving Sun Creek a 3-1 lead.

Sun Creek added two more runs in the bottom of the third inning, with Jayden Hanna having an RBI double and Reed Foster singling in a run.

In the fifth inning, Tigard, trying to battle back, got a two-out triple down the right-field line by John Chabreck. Thomas then hit a fly ball to left field. Foster, playing in left for Sun Creek, sprinted toward the fence and, at the last second, leaped and snagged the ball for the third out of the inning - costing Tigard a run and Thomas an extra-base hit.

'That was a big play,' Nihill said.

Still trailing 5-1 in the sixth inning, Tigard again tried to make things interesting as both Sam Nihill and Jackson were hit by a pitch to start the frame. But Zac Schnerber, pitching in relief for Sun Creek, put the next three Tigard batters down in order to end the game.

'I thought we played well on defense and pitched well,' Vlahos said. 'We had some errors on defense, but our pitchers threw strikes.'

'I thought we did good,' Thomas said. 'Most of their runs were unearned.'

'We've been very close - all tournament,' Jerry Nihill said. 'But the kids have kept their spirits up.'

Tigard had five hits in the contest, one each by Thomas, Jackson, Kuntz, Ott and Chabreck.

Sam Nihill and Ryan Worthley pitched for Tigard in the contest. They combined to give up one earned run on six hits while striking out seven and walking one.

The winner of tonight's game between Tigard and Raleigh Hills will face either Sun Creek or Forest Grove in a tournament semifinal game Saturday at 1:30 p.m.

The tournament championship game will be played Sunday at 3 p.m. The winner of the District 4 tournament advances to play in the Oregon State Tournament, which starts July 23 at Skyview Middle School in Bend.

Other players on the Tigard team include Drew Butz, Brian Sheerin, Luke Smith and Zane Woodward.

Keith Jacobson and Eric Thomas are the team's coaches.